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Move heaven and earth

  • Move heaven and earth is an idiom with an uncertain origin. 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 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 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 is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, chin up, 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, as 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom move heaven and earth, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To move heaven and earth means to put tremendous effort into accomplishing something, to do everything one can to make something happen. The expression move heaven and earth came into use in the 1700s, but its origin is uncertain. Some believe it is related to Archimedes’ statement: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” However, Archimedes lived in the 200s B.C. and the idiom did not come into use until 2,000 years later. Others attribute the idiom to a passage in the Bible, Haggai 2:6: “…I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land…” However, the word “move” is not an accurate synonym of the word “shake,” here. Related phrases are moves heaven and earth, moved heaven and earth, moving heaven and earth.

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    Examples

    Police say they will “move heaven and earth” to track down the murderers of a 19-year-old law student gunned down in a drive-by shooting. (Aberdeen Evening Press)

    Time to demonstrate that the game is important enough to those who oversee it and those who play it to move heaven and earth to keep it breathing now. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

    We’ve heard tales of people dying in hospital rooms without their families, connected only by the grace of technology and medical staff willing to move heaven and earth to allow them a last moment. (The Times Herald-Record)


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