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.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
Waves make it difficult to steer a boat or to stay upright in the water
Sentence 1
Don't make waves for that small boat. Give her a wide berth.
Meaning 2
to cause trouble, to do something that is different
Sentence 2
Don't make waves for the boss. She is under pressure.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
moving at the start
Sentence 1
The sailboats were off to a running start as they passed the buoys.
Meaning 2
a good start on something
Sentence 2
Good outline. You're off to a running start on that essay.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
sail pulled in
Sentence 1
Reef the sail, a storm is coming.
Meaning 2
Let's slow down and reef the sails.
Sentence 2
We've finished the project. Let's reef the sails.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to sail through bad weather
Sentence 1
Let's ride out the storm.
Meaning 2
to persist in doing something difficult, to endure
Sentence 2
The prime minister decided to ride out the scandal.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
To sail well, the crew and the ropes need to be taut and in good order. The captain of the ship controls this.
Sentence 1
The captain runs a tight ship. There have been no accidents.
Meaning 2
to be in control, to have good organizational skills
Sentence 2
It's good that the new executive will run a tight ship. No one knew what his job responsibilities were before.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to sail through a storm
Sentence 1
We sailed through that storm better than I thought.
Meaning 2
to do something easily
Sentence 2
He sailed through that assignment.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
sails not tied down; the sails are flapping in the wind.
Sentence 1
We're seven sheets to the wind. Let's pull in the sails.
Meaning 2
to be drunk, usually on alcohol
Sentence 2
He's seven sheets to the wind. Who's the designated driver?
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
changing direction to take advantage of the wind
Sentence 1
Let's take a new tack in approaching the harbor.
Meaning 2
to try a different approach, a new method
Sentence 2
Let's take a different or new tack to that mathematical problem. We aren't getting a solution.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A sailboat needs wind in its sails to move
Sentence 1
That boat tacked in front of us and took the wind out of our sails.
Meaning 2
to stop or slow someone down
Sentence 2
He didn't get a good evaluation. It really took the wind out of his sails.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A sailing maneuver in which one boat gets between the wind and the opponent's sail, thereby slowing the boat's speed
Sentence 1
In the San Francisco America Cup matches the competing sailboats often took the wind out of their opponent's sails in order to reach a goal faster or to finish first.
Meaning 2
to thwart; discouragement
Sentence 2
Tom called my girl first and took the wind out of my sails.