Full-Court Press – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Every now and then, we encounter idiomatic expressions that originated from sports terminology but have been adopted into everyday use. But they’re not always self-explanatory, like full-court press. How are you meant to use it if you don’t even know what it means? Not to worry, I’ll explain everything you need to know right here in this guide.

Full-Court Press Meaning

Full Court Press Idiom Meaning Origin

In the game of basketball, a full-court press is a specific defensive strategy where one team puts pressure on the opponents across the entire court instead of waiting for them to get close to the basket. This strategy is considered high-risk but can also lead to high rewards, which is why it’s sometimes done.

But this is a phrase that’s often used outside the context of basketball. Saying full-court press in any situation means you’re making an all-out effort to achieve whatever goal you have or desired outcome. Usually, it means you’re applying aggressive action or pressure, too.

Just think of every time a celebrity does something bad. Their PR people fly into a campaign to cover up what they did or paint them in a different picture to save their reputation. They do a full-court press and pull out the big guns on social media, the news, etc., and sometimes even get the celeb in question to take on a job that distracts from the issue.

That’s a rather negative example, though. Just know that full-court press can be applied to positive things, too!

Should “Full-Court Press” Be Hyphenated?

Yes, full-court press should be partially hyphenated between the words full and court.

But when used as an adjective before a noun, the whole thing should be hyphenated because you’re creating an adjective phrase.

  • The team decided to apply a full-court press.
  • They launched a full-court-press strategy.

What Is the Origin of Full-Court Press?

The whole idea of full-court press originated from the popular sport of basketball, where it describes an aggressive defensive strategy against the other team. Basketball coach John McLendon invented the tactic in the 1950s, and the term became an idiom in the 1970s.

Full-Court Press Synonyms

  • All-out effort
  • Aggressive campaign
  • Blitz
  • Full tilt
  • The whole shebang
  • Pull out the big guns
  • Go the distance
  • Maximum pressure
  • Intensive push
  • Concerted drive

Full-Court Press Examples in a Sentence

Full Court Press Idiom Meaning Origin 1
  • The PR firm launched a full-court press to regain its client’s position in the market.
  • Mary did a full-court press to get that promotion she’s had her eye on.
  • The government initiated a full-court press against tax evasion and hired thousands of new IRS agents to monitor it.
  • The Canadian environmental organization has started a full-court press to prevent deforestation in our provinces.
  • I used a full-court press to promote my last book, which paid off.

All Out

So, there you go! Full-court press can be used to describe a defensive strategy in basketball or can be applied to any situation where the maximum effort is being given toward a goal. If using it on its own, only hyphenate the first two words. But if using it as an adjective before a noun, hyphenate all three.