Jump through hoops

Jump through hoops is an idiom that has been in use since around the turn of the twentieth century. 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, 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. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as chip on your shoulder, kick the bucket, let the cat out of the bag, under the weather, barking up the wrong tree, piece of cake, beat a dead horse, let sleeping dogs lie, don’t count your chickens, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression jump through hoops, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To jump through hoops means to perform many boring, difficult, or meaningless tasks or hurdles in the pursuit of a goal. When someone must jump through hoops in order to achieve a goal, these tasks are considered extraneous or not really necessary. Often, the person who is forced to jump through hoops believes that these extra steps are in place to discourage or deter him from achieving the goal, to make it harder for him to achieve the goal, to make him earn the right to achieve the goal, or to simply punish him for wanting to achieve the goal. Jumping through hoops is generally considered a waste of time, necessary to please a person or institution in order to get what one wants. The idiom jump through hoops is derived from the circus. Many animal acts included the task of jumping through hoops, often at the urging of a whip. Sometimes, these hoops were set afire.  Circus animals that were forced to jump through hoops often included dogs, lions, and tigers. These animals were coerced into jumping through hoops for the audience’s entertainment, not because there was a compelling reason to jump through the hoops. The phrase jump through hoops came to be used in a figurative or metaphorical sense around the turn of the twentieth century. Related phrases are jumps through hoops, jumped through hoops, jumping through hoops.


“You’re making producers run around, tap dance and jump through hoops,” he said. (The Greenville News)

What I do best for them is to show them that there is no need to jump through hoops to please me like their fathers and mom had to do. (The Delaware County Daily Times)

“We have a business that’s potentially harming our residents and we have to jump through hoops of fire to get them to meet the rules and regulations.” (The Chicago Sun-Times)

Educators are waiting for the details, but one, Frontier Superintendent Richard Hughes, called the proposal a “redirect,” and an attempt to make districts “jump through hoops” to codify what they do. (The Buffalo News)

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