Firing on all cylinders

Firing on all cylinders is an idiom that has been in use since the latter half of 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 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 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 such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, 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, as 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom firing on all cylinders, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Firing on all cylinders describes someone or something that is functioning at its full capacity, someone or something that is operating to its full potential. The expression firing on all cylinders was first used in the United States in the early 1900s and refers to a function of the internal combustion engine. An internal combustion engine works by firing cylinders. If one or more cylinders misfire, the engine will not work efficiently or at its full capacity. Related phrases are fire on all cylinders, fires on all cylinders, fired on all cylinders.


“Tampa Bay deserves to experience these major works with an enormous orchestra firing on all cylinders.” (Tampa Bay Newspapers)

Microsoft has come out the blocks firing on all cylinders, dropping tonnes of details about the Xbox Series X that has caught gamers’ attention. (The Daily Express)

Matt Joseph, one of the owners, said the restaurant was “firing on all cylinders” up until last weekend when sales dropped. (The Jacksonville Daily Record)

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