Go great guns

Go great guns is an idiom that is several hundred years old. 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 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 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 is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, 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, as 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom go great guns, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To go great guns means to tackle a project enthusiastically, to do something successfully or with all of one’s effort. The idiom go great guns has evolved from a British nautical phrase in use since the late eighteenth century, to blow great guns, which describes a violent wind storm. The term became go great guns to mean to do something with great vigor sometime in the 1800s. Related phrases are goes great guns, went great guns, going great guns.


“I guess he seems to think his solo career is going to go great guns, and he doesn’t seem to realize that — in my opinion — his fans around the globe want to see him in the context of Aerosmith and don’t really care for whatever he thinks he’s gonna do.” (The Oakland Press)

Fergal O’Brien continues to go great guns, but his Imperial Alcazar was poor when second last time out and needs to step up on that effort in a big way. (The Sun)

“It’s going to be a little harder, but we’re going to go great guns whatever happens here.” (The Winona Daily News)

The Panthers had been going great guns and were unbeaten in their four matches when the M-League was suspended on March 14 following the movement control order (MCO). (The Star)

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