Foot in the Door — Idiom, Meaning & 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.

If you’ve ever heard someone say they got their foot in the door at a company, don’t worry, no one’s toes were actually harmed! This phrase actually describes getting a starting position or opportunity, usually with the hope of progressing further.

But how did this phrase come about? How should you use it? Buckle up, my friend, as I jump into the cool history and proper usage of this handy idiom.

Understanding Foot in the Door Meaning

Foot in the Door — Idiom Meaning Origin 1

A foot in the door is an idiomatic expression we use to refer to the act of gaining an initial opportunity, an opening or a chance to do something more significant in the future.

It’s mostly used in the context of employment or business because it suggests the idea of getting a small position or role that can lead to much larger opportunities down the line.

My foot in the door to the writing world while working in the design world was to start freelancing and get my feet wet. I offered to do my first two gigs for free just to make connections and get something on my resume. Over a decade later, it’s now my full-time career.

Should It Be Hyphenated?

The expression a foot in the door isn’t usually hyphenated. But if you’re using it as a compound adjective before a noun, it would be hyphenated, as in a foot-in-the-door opportunity.

Origin and Etymology Behind “Get My Foot in the Door”

A Foot in the Door Ngram
A foot in the door usage trend.

It’s likely that the idiom a foot in the door originated from the world of sales and marketing. Door-to-door salespeople would sometimes literally stick a foot in the door to prevent the homeowner from closing it, securing an opportunity to make their pitch.

The phrase was then metaphorically extended to describe the first step towards achieving some sort of goal or gaining an opportunity in life.

Get Your Foot in the Door Synonyms

If you’re tired of using get a foot in the door, don’t worry,  there are plenty of other phrases that convey the same meaning:

  • Get a toehold
  • Make a start
  • Get a break
  • Have an in
  • Gain a foothold
  • Get on the ladder
  • Break into
  • Gain an entry

Sentence Examples Using “Foot in the Door”

Foot in the Door — Idiom Meaning Origin

  • My internship at the design firm was just a foot in the door, but it led to a full-time job.
  • My husband managed to get his foot in the door at the bank through a friend’s recommendation.
  • Karen viewed the assistant role as a foot-in-the-door opportunity to get her started.
  • With this small investment, we can get our foot in the door of the real estate market.
  • He hopes the part-time job will be a foot in the door to a career in the film industry.
  • The introductory course could be your foot in the door to a degree in computer science.
  • That first publication was her foot in the door to the world of academia.
  • Gaining a foot in the door of the music industry is challenging without connections.
  • Her volunteer work served as a foot in the door to a paid position.
  • The graduate program was a great way for me to get my foot in the door at the company.

That’s Your Foot in the Door With This Idiom

You’re now fully equipped with all the know-how of how to get your foot in the door — in terms of language usage, at least! With its history in door-to-door sales and its versatile applications in modern English, it’s no wonder this phrase has become a staple of our language. Take a moment and check out my other idiom guides to bulk up your vocab!