Middle-of-the-road is an idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom middle-of-the-road, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Middle-of-the-road means moderate, not prone to extremes, bland or inoffensive. Middle-of-the-road is an adjective phrase that is most often applied to politics, though it is also used to describe bland music or art. the phrase middle-of-the-road originated in the United States in the late 1800s and was first used to describe a politician who would not commit himself to any particular stance or align himself with any particular movement in the hopes of appealing to all voters. For many years, middle-of-the-road was a bit of an epithet used to describe evasive, wish-washy politicians; today, the term is beginning to carry the connotation of compromise and reasonableness.


The senator’s middle-of-the road politics have frustrated his progressive Democratic colleagues. (USA Today)

“A statewide election, even in a small state, is a different thing, especially in Delaware, which has a history of middle-of-the-road politics.” (News Journal)

That middle-of-the-road music appealing to a vaguely jazz-aware audience can seem terribly bland. (Irish Times)

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