Level playing field and level the playing field are two idioms that have been in use since the latter 1900s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. 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. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as kick the bucket, cut the mustard, barking up the wrong tree, dime a dozen, let sleeping dogs lie, Achilles heel, 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 phrases level playing field and level the playing field, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
A level playing field is a situation in which conditions are fair for everyone, where opportunities are equal for all involved, where no one has an advantage over the other. Level the playing field means to alter conditions in order to provide an equal opportunity for all of those who are involved, to change the conditions of a situation in order to make things fair for everyone. The idioms a level playing field and level the playing field are sports metaphors. Field sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, rugby, etc., should be played on a level field. A sloping sports field yields an unfair advantage for one team, who must run up the slope in order to score. Most sports involve changing the teams’ goals at halftime in order to be sure there is no unfair advantage. The phrases a level playing field and level the playing field were first used as idioms in the 1970s to describe fair opportunities in business. Often, sports terms become idioms when their use migrates to the business world. A level playing field is a noun phrase, level the playing field is a verb phrase. Related phrases are levels the playing field, leveled the playing field, leveling the playing field.
Even a layman knows competitive election presupposes existence, more or less, of a level playing field depending on whether the election was being held under an incumbent government. (The Daily Star)
“There has been a shift — and business is more of a level playing field than before.” (The Evening Standard)
The Act would enable developers to obtain better financing, grow in scale to create jobs, and would create a level playing field for energy storage to compete with other energy resources eligible for the ITC, the signatories claimed. (Windpower Monthly)
It’s a product that levels the playing field somewhat from pitmaster to pantry steward, allowing the injection of smoke flavor into pretty much anything. (The San Antonio Express News)
For centrist or left-leaning news consumers, the idea of Fox News bringing balance is like suggesting the introduction of feces to a cafeteria food fight levels the playing field. (The Centre Daily Times)