A sentence I read on New Oxford Dictionary, under its entry for share:

She's done more than her fair share of globe-trotting.

What does fair mean here?

I can't tell what does "fair" means in that sentence. I am confused because it can mean "good", or "ideal", or "cheap", or "within the buget", or "reasonable"... so, "do more than her fair share" is really vague to me. What does done more than her share mean, and what's a good paraphrase for this sentence?

  • Did you look fair up in a dictionary? What did you find? Which meaning do you think it has?
    – WendiKidd
    Oct 24, 2013 at 2:21
  • Sorry, I am not a native reader, so I can't tell what does "fair" mean in this sentence. I am confused because it can be "good", can be "ideal", can be "cheap", can be "within the buget", can be "reasonable"...and, "do more than her fair share" is really vague to me,I don't know what the sentence is talking about, while the share is of a "globe-trotting".
    – dennylv
    Oct 24, 2013 at 2:32
  • 2
    Yes, that's good! It's totally okay that you don't know what it means. What we do want, though, is that you include in your question the information you found when you looked--just like you just did in that comment :) So if you explain what you're thinking and where you're coming from, we can give better answers! :) Does that make sense?
    – WendiKidd
    Oct 24, 2013 at 2:34
  • It's an example sentence in a dictionary. I don't and can hardly have any surounding information. I just need some help from native English readers, because I think you native readers must have a better comprehension to get the meaning at your first sight of the sentence. I have little idea at reading this sentence...No offense, just need help.
    – dennylv
    Oct 24, 2013 at 2:54
  • Remember, "It's an example sentence in a dictionary, and there is no surrounding information" IS additional information. We appreciate you telling us that. I've edited your question to include the clarifying remarks you've left in your comment, and I added one more tidbit to complete the background information (namely, where you found the sentence in that dictionary). In light of the multiple meanings of fair, it's a very fair question (meaning it's reasonable, not meaning that it's mediocre).
    – J.R.
    Oct 24, 2013 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


This is a very interesting question. When politicians say:

The rich need to pay their fair share [in taxes].

they are referring to some amount of tax they feel would be equitable, and stating that the rich should be paying that amount. (In all likelihood, they also mean – at least in their opinion – the rich aren't paying that amount yet, but they should be.)

However, when talking about doing a fair share of some activity:

Greg has done his fair share of traveling over the past few months.

the meaning can be somewhat idiomatic. That sentence doesn't necessarily mean that Greg has done more traveling than he should have, or that maybe he should have given up his airline seat to Deborah, who hasn't been away from home in years. It simply means Greg has done a LOT of traveling. One paraphrase would be:

Greg has sure traveled a lot over the past few months!

In this usage, fair doesn't necessarily mean "what is right", or "what is acceptable", or "what is within standards," or "what is equitable" – though it could, depending on the context. For example, consider these two conversations; the first is between Greg's neighbors, who are talking at the mailbox:

Ms. A: I hear Greg is going to Italy next month.
Mr. B: Really? Didn't he just get back from Ireland a few weeks ago? Greg has done his fair share of traveling over the past few months.

Chances are, fair share is being used here idiomatically – it's not like the neighbors feel as though Greg is doing an unfair amount of traveling. But watch what happens when we move the conversation to the conference room at Greg's office:

Manager: We need someone to go to Italy next month.
Greg [raising his hand enthusiastically]: I'll go!
Deborah [more meekly]: I'd like to go...
Greg [cutting Deborah off]: No, that's okay, I'll take this one.
Assistant Manager [sternly]: Look, Greg, didn't you just get back from Ireland? And weren't you in New Zealand the month before that? And we sent you on that trip to Ecuador back in June, too. [to the manager] I think Greg has done his fair share of traveling over the past few months. We should send Deborah on this trip.

If you notice, the assistant manager has uttered the same sentence as Mr. B – word for word – but the meaning of fair has shifted. This time, the assistant is using the word to mean "what is equitable, or "what is more even."

  • 1
    I usually agree with you 100%, but I have some observations here. I think while what you say about fair share is true, OP's use of more than her fair share is crucial, and changes the interpretation. I think that the use of understatement in your first example adds another layer of complexity that is not present in OPs statement. Too, I think that fair can not only be used to mean just straight equal/equitable but also typical. For example: Everyone does some traveling, but Ellen has done more than her fair share isn't really about fairness per se, but about "usualness"
    – Jim
    Oct 26, 2013 at 2:19
  • @Jim - Great point all the way around. Indeed, the use of more than does make the allegation stronger, either in terms of perceived unfairness or unusualness.
    – J.R.
    Oct 26, 2013 at 9:56

The definition of fair, globe-trotter and share used here are:

fair : agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
: treating people in a way that does not favor some over others

globe-trotter : a person who frequently travels to different places around the world

share a : a portion belonging to, due to, or contributed by an individual or group
b : one's full or fair portion

To share something amongst a group of people usually means that each person gets an equal portion- their fair share.

To say that someone got more than their fair share means that the amount they got was more than others.

So saying she's done more than her fair share of globe-trotting is a way of saying that she's got to travel around the world more than most people get to do in their lives.

  • yeah,now it makes sense to me. I didn't even think of anything about "more than most people get to do". I thought she might get a better treatment druing the trip...
    – dennylv
    Oct 24, 2013 at 3:09

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