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[wel] /wɛl/
in a good or satisfactory manner:
Business is going well.
thoroughly, carefully, or soundly:
to shake well before using; listen well.
in a moral or proper manner:
to behave well.
commendably, meritoriously, or excellently:
a difficult task well done.
with propriety, justice, or reason:
I could not well refuse.
adequately or sufficiently:
Think well before you act.
to a considerable extent or degree (often used in combination): a sum well over the amount agreed upon;
a well-developed theme.
with great or intimate knowledge:
to know a person well.
certainly; without doubt:
I anger easily, as you well know.
with good nature; without rancor:
He took the joke well.
adjective, comparative better, superlative best.
in good health; sound in body and mind:
Are you well? He is not a well man.
satisfactory, pleasing, or good:
All is well with us.
proper, fitting, or gratifying:
It is well that you didn't go.
in a satisfactory position; well-off:
I am very well as I am.
(used to express surprise, reproof, etc.):
Well! There's no need to shout.
(used to introduce a sentence, resume a conversation, etc.):
Well, who would have thought he could do it?
well-being; good fortune; success:
to wish well to someone.
as well,
  1. in addition; also; too:
    She insisted on directing the play and on producing it as well.
  2. equally:
    The town grew as well because of its location as because of its superb climate.
as well as, as much or as truly as; equally as:
Joan is witty as well as intelligent.
leave well enough alone, avoid changing something that is satisfactory.
Origin of well1
before 900; Middle English, Old English wel(l) (adj. and adv.); cognate with Dutch wel, German wohl, Old Norse vel, Gothic waila
3. properly, correctly. 4. skillfully, adeptly, accurately, efficiently. 5. suitably. 6. fully, amply. 7. rather, quite. 11. healthy, hale, hearty. 12. fine. 13. suitable, befitting, appropriate. 14. fortunate, happy.
3. poorly, badly. 11. ill, sick.
Usage note
See good.
Grammar note
Sometimes an adverb like well is so often placed in front of and combined with a certain past participle in order to modify it that the resulting adjectival combination achieves the status of a common word and is listed in dictionaries. In you will find, for example, entries for well-advised and well-mannered; for ill-advised, ill-bred, and ill-conceived; and for half-baked and half-cocked. Some of these terms are given full definitions, while others are considered such obvious combinations that you can figure out for yourself what they must mean. It is important to note, however, that compound adjectives like these are hyphenated for use before the noun they modify together. Thus we say that someone is “a well-loved professor,” but there would be no hyphen between well and loved in a sentence like “My English professor is well loved and deserves the award.”
In a similar manner, adjectival compounds formed with better, best, little, lesser, least, etc., are also hyphenated when placed before the noun ( a little-understood theory ), but the hyphen is dropped when the adjectival combination follows the noun ( his films are best known in England ) or is itself modified by an adverb ( a too little understood theory ).
There are exceptions to this pattern. For example, when the combining adverb ends in –ly, no hyphen is required, whether the resulting adjectival combination appears before or after the noun: a highly regarded surgeon; a surgeon who is highly regarded.
Don’t let the hyphens fool you. Punctuation can be tricky! Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for leave well enough alone
Historical Examples
  • If this story has a moral, it is: "leave well enough alone."

    The Kenzie Report Mark Clifton
  • Was he to be badgered out of his dinner because a designing old woman could not leave well enough alone?

    Parlous Times David Dwight Wells
  • Since we are making a fairly good thing of it as we stand, why not leave well enough alone?

    I Walked in Arden Jack Crawford
  • For that, for security and the right not to think, most people were willing to leave well enough alone.

    Badge of Infamy Lester del Rey
  • Stifling my au revoir impulse I decided to leave well enough alone by taking that "Good-bye" literally.

    Down the Yellowstone Lewis R. Freeman
  • Of course, he could leave well enough alone, let Miss Wilder blunder along with her somehow.

    The Cricket Marjorie Cooke
  • As this might have led to inquiries, Snake decided to leave well enough alone until dark.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
British Dictionary definitions for leave well enough alone


adverb better, best
(often used in combination) in a satisfactory manner: the party went very well
(often used in combination) in a good, skilful, or pleasing manner: she plays the violin well
in a correct or careful manner: listen well to my words
in a comfortable or prosperous manner: to live well
(usually used with auxiliaries) suitably; fittingly: you can't very well say that
intimately: I knew him well
in a kind or favourable manner: she speaks well of you
to a great or considerable extent; fully: to be well informed
by a considerable margin: let me know well in advance
preceded by could, might, or may. indeed: you may well have to do it yourself
(informal) (intensifier): well safe
all very well, used ironically to express discontent, dissent, etc
as well
  1. in addition; too
  2. preceded by may or might. with equal effect: you might as well come
  3. just as well, preferable or advisable: it would be just as well if you paid me now
as well as, in addition to
just leave well alone, just leave well enough alone, to refrain from interfering with something that is satisfactory
well and good, used to indicate calm acceptance, as of a decision: if you accept my offer, well and good
well up in, well acquainted with (a particular subject); knowledgeable about
adjective (usually postpositive)
(when prenominal, usually used with a negative) in good health: I'm very well, thank you, he's not a well man
satisfactory, agreeable, or pleasing
prudent; advisable: it would be well to make no comment
prosperous or comfortable
fortunate or happy: it is well that you agreed to go
  1. an expression of surprise, indignation, or reproof
  2. an expression of anticipation in waiting for an answer or remark
sentence connector
an expression used to preface a remark, gain time, etc: well, I don't think I will come
Word Origin
Old English wel; related to Old High German wala, wola (German wohl), Old Norse val, Gothic waila


a hole or shaft that is excavated, drilled, bored, or cut into the earth so as to tap a supply of water, oil, gas, etc
a natural pool where ground water comes to the surface
  1. a cavity, space, or vessel used to contain a liquid
  2. (in combination): an inkwell
an open shaft through the floors of a building, such as one used for a staircase
a deep enclosed space in a building or between buildings that is open to the sky to permit light and air to enter
  1. a bulkheaded compartment built around a ship's pumps for protection and ease of access
  2. another word for cockpit
a perforated tank in the hold of a fishing boat for keeping caught fish alive
(in England) the open space in the centre of a law court
a source, esp one that provides a continuous supply: he is a well of knowledge
to flow or cause to flow upwards or outwards: tears welled from her eyes
Word Origin
Old English wella; related to Old High German wella (German Welle wave), Old Norse vella boiling heat
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for leave well enough alone



"hole dug for water, spring of water," Old English wielle (West Saxon), welle (Anglian), from wiellan (see well (v.)).



"in a satisfactory manner," Old English wel, common Germanic (cf. Old Saxon wela, Old Norse vel, Old Frisian wel, Dutch wel, Old High German wela, German wohl, Gothic waila "well"), from PIE *wel-, *wol- (cf. Sanskrit prati varam "at will," Old Church Slavonic vole "well," Welsh gwell "better," Latin velle "to wish, will," Old English willan "to wish;" see will (v.)). Also used in Old English as an interjection and an expression of surprise. Well-to-do "prosperous" is recorded from 1825.



"to spring, rise, gush," Old English wiellan (Anglian wællan), causative of weallan "to boil, bubble up" (class VII strong verb; past tense weoll, past participle weallen), from Proto-Germanic *wal-, *wel- "roll" (cf. Old Saxon wallan, Old Norse vella, Old Frisian walla, Old High German wallan, German wallen, Gothic wulan "to bubble, boil"), from PIE root *wel- "to turn, roll" (see volvox), on notion of "roiling or bubbling water."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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leave well enough alone in Science
A deep hole or shaft sunk into the Earth to tap a liquid or gaseous substance such as water, oil, gas, or brine. If the substance is not under sufficient pressure to flow freely from the well, it must be pumped or raised mechanically to the surface. Water or pressurized gas is sometimes pumped into a nonproducing oil well to push petroleum resources out of underground reservoirs. See also artesian well.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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leave well enough alone in Culture

Leave well enough alone definition

If things are going tolerably well, leave them alone; your efforts to improve the situation may make things worse.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with leave well enough alone

leave well enough alone

Also, let well enough alone . Do not try to change something lest you make it worse. For example, This recipe has turned out fine in the past, so leave well enough alone . The idea behind this expression dates from ancient Greek times, specifically Aesop's fable about a fox who refused a hedgehog's offer to take out its ticks lest, by removing those that are full, other hungry ones will replace them. Put as let well alone from the early 1700s, it was first recorded as let well enough alone in 1827. Also see let sleeping dogs lie
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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