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
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
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.