All dressed up and no place to go

All dressed up and no place to go came into popular use early in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom all dressed up and no place to go, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences

All dressed up and no place to go is an idiom that means one is ready to tackle a project and then finds that it doesn’t occur or to attend an event that ultimately, doesn’t happen. The phrase all dressed up and no place to go invokes the image of someone who dresses up in his best clothes and has nowhere to go to show off one’s attire. Today, the expression all dressed up and no place to go is usually used in a figurative sense, to mean that something that one has anticipated or looked forward to is not going to happen. The idiom all dressed up and no place to go came into common use in the early 1900s, and is attributed to a 1910 musical production, The Girl of My Dreams. All dressed up and no place to go began as American slang, and is sometimes rendered as all dressed up and nowhere to go.


“We finished the day sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. All dressed up and no place to go.” (The Detroit News)

Those are sunshine and rainbows compared to the night when she’s left all dressed up and no place to go. (Us Magazine)

All dressed up and no place to go – after the funeral, few Danes believe that they are off to meet their maker, study shows. (The Copenhagen Post)

All dressed up and no place to go, we looked to the east to the Coachella Valley home to Palm Springs and about a million golf courses. (Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine)

“All dressed up and nowhere to go” is an apt summary of the Las Colonias Business Park if voters don’t approve a change to the Grand Junction City Charter regarding lease rates for businesses within the park. (The Daily Sentinel)

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