Follow suit

Follow suit is an idiom that has been in use at least since the early 1800s and comes from a phrase originally used literally. 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, 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. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beating around the bush, cut the mustard, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, 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. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression to follow suit, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To follow suit means to follow an example set by someone else, to follow someone with actions in kind, to take a cue from someone else in influencing one’s behavior. Words that are synonyms for to follow suit that may be found in a thesaurus are copy, emulate, follow in example. The origin of the phrase to follow suit is no mystery to those who play card games. Many card games involve playing cards according to suit, following the suit that is “lead” in a round. A deck of cards consists of four suits: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs. Originally, the term to follow suit meant to play a card matching the suit of the card played by the leader of the round. This phrase turned into an idiomatic expression around the turn of the nineteenth century, when whist was a very popular card game. Whist is the forerunner of bridge, which is a card game that was very popular throughout the twentieth century and is still played today. Related phrases are follows suit, followed suit, following suit.


Although still without a name, cruise line CEO Michael Bayley said last year that it would continue to follow suit, being a little bit larger than its four existing sisters. (The South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Last summer, as the trade war with China broiled, Washington put pressure on its allies to follow suit and ban Huawei equipment from 5G infrastructure. (Fortune Magazine)

The Senators followed suit when Dylan Strome slapped one past Anders Nilsson to make it 4-3 Hawks with about seven minutes left in the first period. (The Chicago Sun-Times)

Markle followed suit in January 2019 by layering a purple dress from Babaton by Aritzia under a red wrap coat by Sentaler while visiting Birkenhead, UK. (The Insider)

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