Devil May Care – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your teacher say you have a 'devil may care' attitude in class? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression 'devil may care' means you have a carefree or lax attitude towards a task or life in general. A 'devil may care' attitude can also refer to people displaying defiant or reckless behavior in the face of authority.

For instance, if your child is restless and uncooperative in class, they have a 'devil may care' attitude towards schooling. If you have a 'devil may care' attitude, you're relaxed and unconcerned about the results of your actions.

Example Usage

"I'm tired of your devil may care attitude. If you want a job at this company, we need you focused on work. We demand a higher set of standards from our employees."

"Why do you have a devil may care attitude towards your work? I don't want to employ lazy people around here, get back to your job, or you're fired."

"I don't really care what happens in the fight. I have a devil may care attitude towards it. Whatever happens, happens."

"That athlete doesn't value his place on the team. She has a devil may care attitude to training and doesn't show up half the time. We need to replace her on the roster."

"I'm chilled. I have a devil may care attitude towards the entire thing. What happens is out of our control, and there's nothing we can do to change it. So, why bother?"

"So, you're in charge? You have a somewhat devil may care attitude about you, young man. I don't appreciate you talking to me in that tone of voice."

"This devil may care attitude has got to stop. You need to take a better approach to your SATs if you want to get into a good college."

"I don't give two hoots about what you do with your life. I have a devil may care attitude about it, and you can do whatever you feel like. It makes no difference to me."

"This devil may care attitude has got to stop, young man. There is no way I'm paying for private tutors for you to pass math class. Get your head in the books and figure it out."


The expression 'devil may care' originates from the early 18th century. This idiom comes from the golden age of piracy between 1715 to 1725. On the high seas, pirates would seize other ships, slay people, and steal property without regard to the law or fear of being caught.

New pirates would take an oath to the captain and crew, stating, "the devil may care, but I do not." This oath summed up the pirate's commitment to their crew and captain and their attitude to other ships on the high seas.

Phrases Similar to Devil May Care

  • Happy-go-lucky.
  • Laid-back.
  • Low-pressure.

Phrases Opposite to Devil May Care

  • Laser focus.
  • Apt and attentive.
  • Caring and kind.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Devil may care.
  • Devil may cry.

Ways People May Say Devil May Care Incorrectly

The phrase 'devil may care' doesn't have any religious meaning in its modern context. Using it to describe behavior the devil finds appealing is incorrect in contemporary use. The 'devil' in the saying is a person's defiant or carefree attitude towards their behavior or others' requests.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Devil May Care

You can use the expression' devil may care' in social and professional settings where you describe a person's carefree attitude. For instance, you could say your colleague isn't performing as expected at work, and their 'devil may care' attitude is costing the store sales.

Or you could use it at home to describe your kid's defiant attitude to cleaning their room at your request. 'Devil may care' behavior can be malicious or carefree in its intent, depending on the context of the conversation or situation. While the phrase originates in non-secular society, its modern use is secular and has no religious significance.

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