left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, the


The actions are uncoordinated, especially when they are contrary, as in Purchasing has placed the order and accounting says we can't pay for more supplies this month; the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Today this expression is nearly always used as a criticism. But, it first appeared in the New Testament (Matthew 6:3) in an approving sense, when Jesus recommended not publicizing one's good deeds—not letting the left hand know what the right hand does. [Early 1600s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.