Sailing Idioms

Sailing as a sport derives from the time when boats were a means of transportation, one of the most efficient ways of carrying people and goods from one place to another, and sailing a ship was work instead of play. It is difficult to know whether the idioms developed from earlier nautical terms or from the sport of sailing.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to take water out of a boat; to parachute out of a plane that is going down
Sentence 1
Bail out the ship. We're sinking. We better bail out of the plane. We're on fire.
Meaning 2
to help, to save
Sentence 2
The government is bailing out the savings and loan banks.

Derivation

In boating or sailing the term,, bail out, is used to save the boat. In parachuting it is used to get out of the plane.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to throw overboard
Sentence 1
Let's deep-six the treasure chest.
Meaning 2
to throw something away
Sentence 2
Let's deep-six that chapter and write a new one.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
from the front end to the rear end of a boat
Sentence 1
Please wash the boat from stem to stern.
Meaning 2
to do something thoroughly from one end to another
Sentence 2
Please clean the office from from stem to stern.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to give another ship plenty of room to pass by
Sentence 1
Give the tanker a wide berth.
Meaning 2
to stay away from someone or something
Sentence 2
Give the drug dealer a wide berth. He is bad.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to go off the deck of a boat into the water
Sentence 1
There was a terrible storm and the captain yelled, "man overboard."
Meaning 2
to do too much, to do something to excess
Sentence 2
Don't go overboard on decorations for the party. I don't want to spend too much.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to stay with something
Sentence 1
Hang in there. The sea is rough.
Meaning 2
to persist in doing something, to stay with something
Sentence 2
Hang in there. Staying on a low fat diet is no fun.

Derivation

The sailor, wind surfer, glider counterbalances the angle of the boat, surfboard, windsurfer by hanging out over the water.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to hit the bottom of a lake with a boat, a canoe or a fishing line
Sentence 1
We hit the bottom of the stream and had to push the canoe into high water.
Meaning 2
to be at the lowest or worst point
Sentence 2
The economy hit bottom in this fiscal quarter.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
Ropes are integral (central) to the sport of sailing
Sentence 1
If you want to be a sailor, you need to learn how the ropes work for the jib and main sail.
Meaning 2
to learn how to do anything
Sentence 2
You'll learn the ropes of this job soon enough.

Derivation

Hundreds of ropes were needed to work the sails of the great ships that sailed the oceans in years past. It took many months for a sailor to learn (to use) the ropes. After months at sea, he would have learned the ropes.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to start sailing, start the motor, let out the sails
Sentence 1
We're out of the harbor. Let her rip.
Meaning 2
to start something
Sentence 2
Let's go. Let her rip.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to put the boom of a sailboat down (See DERIVATION below for definition of "boom")
Sentence 1
Lower the boom as we come into the harbor. We won't need as much wind.
Meaning 2
to reprimand, scold or get angry at someone
Sentence 2
Joe was not performing at work. The boss lowered the boom on him. He told him to improve his work or he would be fired.

Derivation

The boom is a heavy piece of wood or metal attached to the mast of a ship to which the sail is attached. Sailors must be careful to watch the boom when it is lowered or they might be hit on the head.