Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to threaten someone with revenge? You can do it in style by telling them, “revenge is a dish best served cold.” What does this mean? Are you threatening to poison their food? Let’s unpack the meaning and origin of this expression.


The meaning of the proverbial phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold” is that taking revenge at a later date is more satisfying that enacting it immediately.

Taking revenge later means you have time to premeditate your revenge to perfection instead of acting in haste. The saying means that the longer you wait to take revenge, the more satisfying it is when you do.

Example Usage

“Oh, well, if that’s how you feel, then fine. No, I’m not going to do anything right now. Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

“Why would I take my revenge now? The cops will know it was me. I’d rather wait a few months for the heat to die down and get him back. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.”

“I’ll just sit here, old back of the bus, and wait it out. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it’s in the freezer right now; just wait.”

“Revenge is a dish best served cold. He waited a decade to get that old man back.”


The origin of the expression, "revenge is a dish best served cold," comes from French author Eugène Sue and his novel, "Memoirs of Matilda. "The English translation of the work by D. G. Osbourne, published in 1846, has the phrase appear as follows.

"And then revenge is very good eaten cold, as the vulgar say."

The phrase went through several changes over the centuries before landing on its modern version in the 1980s. There are several uses of the expression in cinema, and the progression of the saying goes as follows.

The Godfather (1972) Don Corleone said, "Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold."

Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn (1982) is the first use of the modern phrase, "Kirk, old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold?"

Phrases Similar to Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

  • An eye for an eye.
  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Phrases Opposite to Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

  • Lashing out in revenge.
  • Immediate reaction.
  • Time heals all wounds.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Ways People May Say Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold Incorrectly

The saying doesn’t refer to serving people bad food. It’s a way of saying that you’re willing to let time pass before acting out your revenge on someone that did you wrong. Using it to describe serving people tainted or poisoned food is incorrect.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold

You can use the phrase “revenge is a dish best served cold” as a veiled threat to someone. The threat could have a serious intention or a lighthearted one, depending on the context of the conversation. The phrase suits professional and social dialogue.

You could use it at work to threaten another sales rep who stole your leads. Or you could use it at home after your brother pulls a prank on you. Typically, the person making the threat doesn’t intend to carry it out.

You can also use the phrase to describe someone’s revenge you hear about in the media. If it fits the same profile of the person waiting a long time to carry out their revenge, then it’s suitable to use the saying.

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