Make ends meet or “make both ends meet” is an idiom meaning if someone has just enough money to cover expenses.
The first written record of the idiom is in The History of the Worthies of England from 1662 written by clergyman Thomas Fuller.
The author wrote the following about Protestant leader Edmund Grindal: “Worldly wealth he cared not for, desiring only to ‘make both ends meet’; and as for that little that ‘lapped over’, he gave it to pious uses…”, that also implies the first explanation of the idiom.
The first theory claims that it comes from dressmaking and refers to the length of material needed to make a piece of clothing reaching around the body.
In the second explanation, ‘ends’ refer to the beginning and the end of a year and to meet ends here means to balance one’s income all throughout the year.
However, this seems to be the late extension of the English phrase that was first recorded in The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) written by the Scottish author Tobias Smollett.
The idiom slowly but gradually became part of everyday language, however, it wasn’t until 1965 that it started to become popular.
This happened thanks to the many books that got the phrase as a title, giving financial support to families.
“Make ends meet” has become part of everyday language and even can be found in written media on a daily basis.