Out of the blue

  • Out of the blue is an idiom that has been in use for over one hundred years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, 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. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase out of the blue, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    Out of the blue means suddenly, without warning. Something that is out of the blue comes as a complete surprise. The idiom out of the blue is actually the abbreviated form of the idiom a bolt out of the blue. Another version of the idiom is a bolt out of the clear, blue sky. The earliest known use of the expression out of the blue was in The French Revolution, written by Thomas Carlyle in 1837: “Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims.”



    CNN reported on Wednesday that emails from Pentagon officials showed they were trying rush Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine last July and were completely stunned when they were blocked out of the blue by Trump. (The Guardian)

    “The character references speak of how Mr. Cleary was a quiet, reserved child and how the offences came out of the blue and are not in his character,” Bodurtha said in his decision, delivered orally Jan. 28. (The Chronicle Herald)

    “Clear-air turbulence,” which evidently jolted an Air Canada flight Thursday over the Pacific Ocean, strikes almost literally out of the blue, with no visible warning in the sky ahead. (Associated Press)

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