The phrase “happy-go-lucky” is an idiomatic expression that means someone is carefree and has a positive, worry-free attitude. Such a person does not let unpleasant things dampen his or her spirits. Like most idioms, this phrase is not to be taken literally and must be understood in its proper context. All idioms are figures of speech. As with many idioms, it is difficult to tell where this one originated.
People who can be accurately described as happy-go-lucky do not let the stresses and pressures of everyday life get to them. They can be children or adults, because it is a mindset instead of an age-related description. While some people let the challenges that life throws at them — bills, bad grades, career difficulties, relationship problems, etc. — get them down, happy-go-lucky people take a positive approach, appreciating the good things — not just the bad — that come from a rough situation. These people may find joy in simple, carefree activities, such as running through the rain or skipping stones across a pond.
Some people are the exact opposite of happy-go-lucky, with a negative outlook on life and a negative reaction to stressful events or people. A person who worries constantly about bills, keeping the car maintained or bad things in the news would not be called happy-go-lucky. Neither would a person who angers easily and expresses that anger by yelling loudly at those nearby. Such people have not learned to deal with stress as effectively as people who are happy-go-lucky.
Not all people who begin life with a negative outlook remain that way. Conversely, not all people who are happy-go-lucky as children stay that way as adults. People often find that their life experiences change their overall attitude and outlook on life. For example, a person who used to worry a great deal and then went through a severe illness from which he recovered might become less negative and more happy-go-lucky after realizing that some things are just not a big deal, especially when compared to the possibility of dying.
The sources or origins of idioms are often difficult to pinpoint for several reasons. Some of them begin with random use in casual conversation among a small group of people. Others may have their origin as a clever phrase in literature. In both cases, the use of the idiomatic expression may then spread so that, in a number of years, it has become more common and is in general use. This also is one way that new words or alternative uses of words develop over time.