All hands on deck

All hands on deck is an idiom that has been in use since about the 1700s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech or literary devices often use descriptive imagery; common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. An idiom may be a euphemism, an understatement or exaggeration, or an expression of irony or hyperbole. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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, bite the bullet, red herring, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, 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. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase all hands on deck, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

All hands on deck is an idiom that is a call for everyone to take part in the work put before them, a command that everyone participate in a particular situation. The expression all hands on deck may be used in emergency situations or in everyday situations. All hands on deck is a naval expression that has migrated into common use. In this phrase, the word hands refers to the sailors on the ship and the deck is the upmost tier of a ship.


Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office officials said the department will be “all hands on deck” for the parades. (Apalachicola Times)

Rather than a harbinger of disaster to come, we need to recognize this as a warning that it’s all hands on deck to ensure election security. (The Harvard Business Review)

“We continue to work to get help for Plymouth County residents and families impacted by addiction, and will take an all hands on deck approach until we get out in front of the overdose issue,” he said in a statement. (Enterprise News)

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