Go the distance

Go the distance is an idiom with two sources of origin. 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 go the distance, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Go the distance is an idiom that means to achieve one’s goal; to complete something, especially if it difficult; to persist on a path until it ends, literally or metaphorically. The expression go the distance has been in use since the 1800s, though its popularity soared mid-twentieth century. The expression go the distance has been used in a literal sense in horse racing since the 1800s to mean to run an entire race. The expression go the distance has been in use in boxing since the latter-1800s to mean to be able to box for an entire bout without getting knocked out or disqualified. Related phrases are goes the distance, went the distance, has gone the distance, going the distance.


Here are some ideas from a few of Seattle’s longtime book clubs, on how to make yours go the distance. (Seattle Times)

While it’s a step in the right direction, the family is determined to go the distance for Damon. (Wahpeton Daily News)

For years the Education Foundation of Sarasota County has rejoiced in partnering with the district to honor teachers who have built a legacy of going the distance every day for their students. (Sarasota Herald Tribune)

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