Fit the bill and fill the bill

Fit the bill and fill the bill are two iterations of an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used 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 common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, 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, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idioms fit the bill and fill the bill, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

Fit the bill describes something that is useful or suitable for a given situation. If something fits the bill it satisfies a need perfectly or falls into place easily. The expression fit the bill came into use in the early twentieth century, but it’s popularity soared mid-twentieth century. Today, it is by far the most popular of the two idioms. Related phrases are fits the bill, fitting the bill.

Fill the bill also describes something useful or suitable for a given situation; this phrase is much older than fit the bill. Fill the bill came into use in the mid-1800s and is related to the theater. In this expression, the word, bill, means an advertisement or poster touting the lineup of acts in a show. The term fill the bill may refer to show owners filling the lineup of a show with numerous lesser acts, a necessary strategy to give the appearance of providing exciting entertainment. The term fill the bill may also refer to having a star who is famous enough to warrant using large type in the show advertisement that fills the bill. Related phrases are fills the bill, filled the bill, filling the bill.


Golladay, Toney and Rudolph fit the bill, but the biggest addition would be a fully healthy RB Saquon Barkley, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 2 last season. (New York Post)

Jordon, 27, awkwardly told his disappointed new wife that she didn’t quite fit the bill for what he would normally look for. (Irish Sun)

If you’re looking for outdoor or at-home dining and safe entertainment that doesn’t involve large, crowded events, these go-at-your-own pace activities will fill the bill (and your belly). (Dallas Observer)

If you can’t find any Father’s Day gift ideas to fill the bill, why not create a DIY Father’s Day gift basket this year that won’t end up collecting dust in the bottom of the closet? (Country Living Magazine)

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