Elbow room

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Elbow room is an idiom that has been in use for several hundred years. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase elbow room, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Elbow room means having enough space to work, play, accomplish a task, or to simply be comfortable. The expression elbow room is used when one is referring to having enough room to navigate in physical space, but it may also be used to mean to have the freedom to accomplish something. The image is of someone extending his elbows without touching someone or something else. The word elbow, which means the bending joint of the arm, has been in use since the 1200s. The idiom elbow room has been in use since the mid-1500s and is found in William Shakespeare’s play The Life and Death of King John: “Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room…”


With a $503,000 expansion to the Austintown Township Police Department nearing completion, dispatchers in the building are eager to move to new space that will not only provide more elbow room, but also help improve efficiency in responding to emergencies in multiple communities. (The Youngstown Vindicator)

North Dakota’s new tourism marketing campaign is promoting what the sparsely populated state has plenty of: elbow room. (North Dakota News)

That’s a lot more elbow room than we have today, considering the state is now home to 10.4 million people, with 498,044 of them in the capital city. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)