Consider the following conversation.

Boss says to his designer: "We need to modify our design."

Designer: "Why? The client just confirmed it yesterday."

Boss: "They changed their mind this morning. The only constant in life is change"

I know this was said by Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher who lived around 500 BC.

I also know its meaning. I’d like just to know whether this version is widely recognized?

Another version is "The only thing that is constant is change."

Which wording is more common?

Ngram Viewer limits at most 5 words, so, the most common use "the only constant in life" could be

"change is the only constant in life"

"the only constant in life is change"

"The only constant in life is that things change"

I also tried other combinations and didn't get a clear result. Can someone help me on this?

  • Do you know you can use Google ngram viewer to compare the frequency of phrases? Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 6:46
  • 1
    I don’t understand why this bothers you. The meanings of your alternatives are clear and unambiguous, so why would you care which is in most common use? If you use the most common versions of thoughts, you may produce dull and cliché-ridden prose. Only if you wish to quote Heraclitus formally does this seem to matter.
    – Anton
    Commented Jun 24, 2020 at 7:42
  • If you can't find it in google ngram because of the 5 word limit, then use a simple google search. Use a search term like this: +"the only constant in life is change"
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 27 at 13:15
  • Also note that there doesn't seem to be an original quote from Heraclitus himself, it seems Plato quoted him, but even he couldn't decide what he actually said, word for word. There's a page on wikipedia about it.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jan 27 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


Both phrasings "Change is the only constant" and "The only constant is change" seem equally likely. Google seems to agree, suggesting each both have between 100,000 and 1,000,000 results.

Neither is an accurate quote of Heraclitus, Not even a quote by one of the later philosophers that quoted or paraphrased him.

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