Lost in the shuffle

Lost in the shuffle is an idiom that has been in use for over one hundred years. 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. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, piece of cake, hit the sack, 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 phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom lost in the shuffle, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Lost in the shuffle describes something that has been overlooked, someone who has gotten lost in a crowd, something that has not been recognized or dealt with because it has receded in a field of chaos. The idiom lost in the shuffle was first used in the 1880s but became popular around the turn of the twentieth century. The expression comes from the practice of mixing cards before playing a card game to achieve a randomness in the distribution of the cards among the players. Many other phrases and idioms have come from card playing, including dealt a bad hand, have an ace up one’s sleeve, and ante up. The idiom lost in the shuffle is often expressed in the negative, as in don’t get lost in the shuffle.


“Historically, in the past, sometimes victims were lost in the shuffle of the criminal justice system,” Walsh said. (The Union of Grass Valley)

Something lost in the shuffle of last night’s Community Police Oversight Board meeting: the city has yet to staff the crucial Office of Community Police Oversight. (D Magazine)

While this tactic afforded the opportunity for gifted young performers to showcase comedic, vocal and musical skills, I fear that the details of one of the play’s two concurrent storylines got lost in the shuffle, making its resolution murky if not altogether incomprehensible. (The Charleston Post and Courier)

The last municipal election cycle in Evanston was fraught with confusion about filing dates, primaries and an old referendum that got lost in the shuffle. (The Daily Northwestern)

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