Method to Madness – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Has your new boss introduced unorthodox methods some are uncomfortable with, but do you think his way of doing things makes sense? You could say there’s a “method to his madness.” This post unpacks the meaning of this fascinating but confusing idiom and explores its origins.


Famous playwright William Shakespeare coined the English idiom “a method to [someone’s] madness.”

When there is a method to someone’s madness, their actions and behavior may seem odd, inefficient, or even foolish. However crazy the person’s approach seems, logic underlies it, and the person has a clear end goal.

A method in [someone’s] madness” is an alternative form of this idiom. Both versions have the same meaning.

Example Usage

Would you like to use the phrase “method to madness” in a sentence? These examples show you how to do it:

  • “You’re asking why my stuff is all over the floor? I know it looks crazy, but there’s a method to my madness. I’m using the Japanese KonMari method to declutter and create a harmonious interior.”
  • “I didn’t like that teacher at all when she first started working at Littlewoods Academy, but now I see there’s a method to her madness. The children love her and are really engaged in the learning process.”
  • “Never assume people are doing things wrong because you don’t understand their approach. You’ll find there is a method in their madness more often than not. If you’re curious, you can just ask what they are doing and why.”


Many English idioms emerge gradually and organically. It is often impossible to discover an expression’s exact origins. “There is a method to [someone’s] madness” is a notable exception.

This phrase was directly inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which was published in 1602. The play includes the line, “Though this be madness yet there is method in it.”

The line in question refers to Hamlet, the prince of Denmark. The ghost of this character’s dead father warned Hamlet that he had, in fact, been murdered. This prompted Hamlet to embark on a murder mystery quest.

Hamlet decided to pretend he had gone crazy. This choice allowed him to spy on the members of his father’s court freely, as they believed he wasn’t capable of understanding what was going on.

The famous line explains that although these actions were unorthodox and seemed mad, Hamlet had good reason for his actions.

Shakespeare’s famous play directly inspired the idiom “there is method to [someone’s] madness,” to the point where many people who use the saying are not familiar with its origins.

Phrases Similar to Method to Madness

You can use the phrase “organized chaos” to describe methods that appear messy but make sense.

Phrases Opposite to Method to Madness

The expression “method to madness” implies that someone appears crazy or weird but has a perfectly reasonable approach.

Idioms that describe genuinely being or going crazy include:

  • That way madness lies — describing activities that make you feel crazy.
  • [That person is in] cloud cuckoo-land — meaning the person is so out of touch with reality that they have gone insane.
  • Running around like a headless chicken — being so busy that you have gone crazy.
  • [Someone is] not playing with a full deck of cards — meaning someone who is “slow” or crazy.
  • [Someone has] lost [their] marbles — Someone who has gone crazy.

What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is “method to madness.” You can say, “There is a method to my madness” or explain there is a method to someone else’s madness.

This saying means that, though the methods may seem odd, they are rational and reasonable.

Ways People May Say Method to Madness Incorrectly

It would be incorrect to use the phrase “method to madness” to describe someone who is insane but appears organized. “Method to madness” should only be used to say that someone who appears crazy is anything but.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Method to Madness

You can say there is a method to your madness whenever your actions seem strange but you have a good reason for engaging in them. The same can apply to anyone else who appears crazy but isn’t.

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