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a bird in the hand

Although Renaissance Learning officials are taking the [new] offer "very seriously"... board members still must pursue the Permira deal, James said... "It's a bird in the hand." —Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (8/26/2011)

Barnes & Noble's future remains uncertain. So the board may prefer to take the bird in the hand in the form of the Liberty Media bid, particularly since the risk of Barnes & Noble's digital strategy is high. —The New York Times (1/1/2011)

In January, Mr. Cymbal sold the land to Sweet Virginia Acquisitions LLC..."My initial response was I'm not selling because this was my baby. But I kept hearing my mother saying 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,'" says Mr. Cymbal. —The Wall Street Journal (2/1/2012)

A bird in the hand is a shortened version of an old saying: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Its current meaning, usually, is having something now is more valuable than the possibility of having something greater in the future.

The old saying, which has been traced to the 1500's, alluded to the use of trained falcons to catch smaller birds. It was better to have a falcon in one's hand than two small birds caught in the bush.

Few people are aware of the origin. As the news examples show, the meaning of the expression has changed.