In the Ballpark—Accuracy in Approximation

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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.

In the ballpark means being within a reasonable range or close in approximation of something. We commonly use this idiom when someone estimates or guesses something that’s fairly close to the correct answer or amount.

Idioms such as in the ballpark are words or phrases whose meaning cannot be understood from the literal definitions of the individual words. They are figurative in nature and often carry cultural or contextual significance. Understanding idioms enriches communication by adding nuance and depth to language, allowing speakers to convey ideas more vividly and creatively.  

My quick but detailed article will break down the idiom’s meaning, origins, variations, and practical usage. It will also give a comprehensive look at how it fits into everyday language. If you want to be a pro at using this idiom, read to the end and test what you’ve learned with a quick quiz!

In the Ballpark—Accuracy in Approximation

What Does the Idiom in the Ballpark Mean?

The idiom in the ballpark means to be approximately correct or close to a particular value, amount, or estimate. It is often used to express a rough or general proximity to an expected or reasonable figure without being exact.

The Collins Dictionary defines the idiom in the ballpark as being “fairly accurate or close to what is required.” Similarly, the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “to be close to the right amount.”

It’s a pretty common saying that refers to an estimate or guess that’s approximately correct or within an acceptable range. It implies a level of accuracy that is close enough for practical purposes, even if it’s not exact.

If someone were to ask me how many books I have, I’m not going to run down to my home library and count every single one. Instead, I’d probably just say, “In the ballpark of a thousand,” because that’s close enough to give them an idea. The number might actually be 957 or 1029, but saying one thousand is totally acceptable in a situation like that because the exact number is irrelevant.

Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning

The literal meaning of in the ballpark might suggest standing within a physical baseball park. In the figurative sense, it has nothing to do with sports but actually indicates being in the general vicinity of accuracy or correctness.

Variations of the Idiom

Variations might sound incorrect sometimes, but they’re perfectly acceptable to use and often maintain the same original meaning. You get different versions of a saying because of regional spellings, preferences, and cultural differences. 

  • In the right ballpark
  • Ballpark figure
  • Ballpark it
  • Not in the same ballpark
  • In the general ballpark

How Is the Idiom in the Ballpark Commonly Used in Context?

The idiom in the ballpark is frequently employed to convey a degree of approximation or closeness to a specific value, amount, or estimate. In the following sections, explore the diverse ways this idiom is commonly used, discover tips for its effective application, and find real-world examples showcasing its versatile nature.

What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom in the Ballpark?

  • In business: For rough financial estimates or projections. “Give me a ballpark figure for our budget next quarter so that I can start making plans now.”
  • Everyday conversations: When guessing about quantities or measurements. “The amount of books I have is in the ballpark of a thousand.”
  • Within analytical contexts: Estimating data or results within a reasonable range. “The number of people who signed the petition is in the ballpark range of about eight hundred, well over the five hundred minimum we needed.”

What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom in the Ballpark Effectively?

  • Use it when precision isn’t super critical, but a rough estimate is needed.
  • Avoid using it in contexts where exact figures are crucial, like measuring medicine dosages or how many cups of flour to use when baking.
  • Pair it with numbers to give a clearer idea of the estimated range.
  • The word ballpark should always be written as a single word, not ball park.

Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom in the Ballpark?

It’s such a common saying that you’ll see it used in books, films, and all sorts of media.

Specifically, there’s a book called In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People written by George Gmelch and J.J. Weiner that’s comprised of a collection of interviews from people who’ve worked at famous ballparks.

It’s also a phrase that’s been quoted in the news more times than one can count, like these few examples:

However, by spring of this year, enough money had been raised—in the ballpark of $25,000, Bach estimated—for the bridge to be built. (The New Canaan News)

This IPO comes a few days after the last tech IPO hit one out of the ballpark, a company called Nutanix. (The Business Insider)

What Is the Origin of the Idiom in the Ballpark?

in the ballpark NGram
In the ballpark usage trend.

The idea for the idiom in the ballpark stems from the American game of baseball and the field of play housed inside the stadium that consists of an infield and an outfield. That stadium and field is considered the ballpark.

During the early 1960s, when the Air Force and NASA were conducting tests concerning space travel, the area in which they hoped to land test missiles or capsules was called the ballpark. Any landing within this designated area of several hundred miles was considered in the ballpark and close enough to the target to be considered a success.

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

The phrase evolved from its literal sports-related context to a broader metaphorical use in just about any context, signifying being within an approximate range or area of accuracy.

What Are Some Related Terms to the Idiom in the Ballpark?

If baseball references don’t really jive with the context you’re dealing with, try some of these alternatives.

In the Ballpark—Accuracy in Approximation 1


  • Approximately
  • Roughly
  • Close proximity
  • Close enough
  • Roundabout
  • In the vicinity


In the Ballpark: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned about the Idiom in the Ballpark?

Now that I’ve unraveled the important details about the idiom in the ballpark, highlighting its meaning, origin, and usage, you should be all set to start using it with confidence. Remember that in the ballpark signifies being roughly accurate or in the vicinity of a specific value, amount, or estimate.

It’s useful in situations where exactness is elusive, but a general idea is good enough. Understanding this idiom enriches our communication skills, allowing for flexibility and precision in language.In the ballpark is an excellent example of how language can be both accurate and accommodating, making it a valuable addition to our idiomatic vocabulary. If you want to add more, read my other idiomatic guides like this one found on our site!

Check out some others we covered: