Footloose and fancy-free

  • Footloose and fancy-free is 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 saying footloose and fancy-free, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    Footloose and fancy-free describes someone who has no attachments, someone who is free to make any choice, someone who has no responsibilities or commitments. Both footloose and fancy-free came into use separately in the 1600s. Footloose originally meant free to move one’s feet. It’s idiomatic meaning, to be able to make one’s own choices without considering any responsibilities, came into use in the 1800s. Fancy-free originally meant to be lacking in romantic attachments. By the 1800s, the word fancy-free came to mean lacking in any attachments. The two words were joined together into one idiom in the United States around 1880s.



    The footloose and fancy-free generation has strong discretionary spending power, a target for consumer goods companies. (South China Morning Post)

    While a bachelor is simply defined as, “a man who has never married,” it carries with it a whole host of connotations of being a player, a stag, footloose and fancy-free (a genuine thesaurus-listed synonym). (Cosmopolitan Magazine)

    Now when you’re 22 and footloose and fancy free, you might not think people who are old count that much, but we do. (Seymour Tribune)

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