In Like Flynn – Meaning and Origin

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

In like Flynn is an idiom that means smoothly getting into a situation or effortlessly achieving success. This quirky idiom has its roots tied to the famous Australian actor Errol Flynn, though not necessarily for the most flattering reasons.

Idioms, like this one, are phrases that don’t always make sense at first glance. Instead of the literal meaning of the words, idioms carry a deeper or symbolic meaning, often borrowing from historical events or famous personalities. They’re like the seasoning in the language soup—they add flavor and cultural context and make conversations richer.

Read on to fully understand the meaning behind this idiom, its illustrious origins, and how to use the expression in a modern context.

In Like Flynn Meaning Explained

In Like Flynn – Meaning and Origin

In like Flynn means to be immediately successful, to have achieved acceptance, or to highlight a state where one will continue to find success.

But here’s a juicy tidbit: it has some spicy undertones, thanks to its connection to Errol Flynn, a famous actor known for being quite the ladies’ man. Though nowadays, most folks use the saying in a more lighthearted, innocent way, it’s still got a hint of that old-school, cheeky charm.

In Like Flynn Sentence Examples

  • Unfortunately, some courses had low expectations, and if you simply showed up and looked alive, you were in like Flynn and received more than an acceptable passing grade.
  • After dating a half dozen women during the first few months of his employment, his co-workers started commenting on his being in like Flynn with each subsequent date.
  • Their starting player was in like Flynn, and the first to react whenever the ball came his way on the field.

Should Flynn Always Be Capitalized?

Because Flynn in the phrase in like Flynn is associated with a person, it should always be capitalized per the rules of proper nouns.

Origins of In Like Flynn

In Like Flynn Ngram
In like Flynn usage trend.

Ever wonder where “In like Flynn” comes from? Grab some popcorn because it’s tied to the movie star, Errol Flynn. This Aussie actor, famous for his romantic and daring roles back in the day, wasn’t just a silver screen heartthrob. Off-screen, he was known to live large, enjoying a drink (or several) and wooing plenty of women. Gossip mills were always churning with tales of his wild love affairs.

Things took a twist in the 1940s when Flynn faced accusations of being involved with an underage girl. Even though he dodged that bullet and was found not guilty, it did dent his shining reputation a bit.

Yet, through it all, Errol was seen as this charming, lucky guy who seemed to glide through life—hence the phrase “In like Flynn,” hinting at smooth success. But, because of the drama in his personal life, the phrase also picked up a naughty edge, suggesting someone’s gotten their way, especially with the opposite sex, without facing any backlash.

One of the first times we see “In like Flynn” pop up in writing is in a 1946 edition of The Orem-Geneva Times, talking about the comfort of a P-47 aircraft:

“Flying in it is really luxurious, as the G.I.s say ‘We’re in like Flynn.'”

A 1946 American Speech publication gives a nod to Flynn’s easy on-screen successes, defining the term:

“In like Flynn, everything is O.K. It’s like the pilot has as smooth a ride as Errol Flynn does in his movies.”

Let’s Review

In like Flynn is an idiomatic phrase named after the flamboyant and womanizing actor Errol Flynn. It means to be immediately successful, to have achieved acceptance, or to highlight a state where one will continue to find success.

Although the term is not as widely used today, it is still a recognizable expression and can be used to explain success in someone’s actions.

Want to have more idioms in your arsenal? Check out some others we covered: