Don’t give up the ship

  • Don’t give up the ship is an American idiom. 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 or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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 helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom don’t give up the ship, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    Don’t give up the ship is an exhortation to keep going, to not quit, to never surrender, to keep trying, to keep working. The exclamation don’t give up the ship was uttered by Commander James Lawrence of the U.S.S. Chesapeake during the War of 1812. Lawrence was told to avoid engaging the enemy, but he disobeyed those orders and engaged the British frigate, the Shannon. Lawrence was mortally wounded, yet exhorted his crew: “Tell them to fire faster; don’t give up the ship.” However, the crew did surrender as they were boarded. Commodore Perry had the phrase “Don’t give up the ship!” embroidered on his ship’s flag and was often credited with inventing the phrase. Today, the phrase is a motto of the U.S. Navy and the idiom don’t give up the ship is used is situations other than naval ones.



    He also plans to fly a “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag, a motto LaMarre has used as a rallying cry as the port remains embroiled in a regulatory dispute with U. S. Customs and Border Patrol. (The Monroe News)

    One of their favorite back-and-forth sayings was, “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” which carried more meaning when Francis C. became ill right before his passing in 1997. (The Pioneer)

    A timely message, but I just bought a flag for the office that says “Don’t Give Up the Ship” to hang above my desk. (Forbes Magazine)

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