Six of one, half dozen of the other

A carton of half dozen brown eggs
Six eggs; half a dozen eggs

If you’re faced with two choices that are equal in value or appeal, then you can say it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. We use this idiom when we cannot decide between two options because there is not one that is noticeably better than the other.

The idiom itself uses two phrases to describe the number six: six, and half a dozen. It does not matter whether the two alternatives are good or bad in nature; instead, the focus is on how similar they are in terms of overall value. When we say six of one, half dozen of the other, it means that both options will lead to a similar result, so the differences between them are irrelevant or insignificant. It expresses the idea that it doesn't matter which option you choose because they are basically equivalent.

This expression can be used informally in personal and professional contexts. For example:

  • I'm not sure if I should bring cupcakes or brownies to my niece's birthday party, but I suppose it's six of one, half dozen of the other.
  • I have a big project to finish by tomorrow so I could either stay at work late tonight or go in super early tomorrow. I guess it's six of one, half dozen of the other when it comes to my sleep schedule.

A. Do you want to take the bus or the train to the theater tomorrow?
B. They take the same amount of time so both options are fine. It's six of one, half dozen of the other, really.

Did you know? This phrase was first recorded in 1790. It was written by a British navel officer who was sailing near the coast of Australia.