Out of the Woods – Idioms for Overcoming Difficulties

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Out of the woods is an idiom used to express the feeling of no longer being in danger or having difficulty. This phrase metaphorically suggests that someone has escaped a dense, confusing forest and is now in a clearer, safer area.

Idioms, like out of the woods, are non-literal sayings, and they’re essential to the English language because they provide different ways to express our thoughts and emotions.

This article covers the meaning of out of the woods, as well as its origin, how it’s used in different contexts, and synonyms and antonyms. There’s even a quiz for you at the end to see how much you learned. Keep reading to discover the right usage of this idiom in conversation and writing.

Out of the Woods – Idioms for Overcoming Difficulties

What Does the Idiom Out of the Woods Mean?

The idiom out of the woods means to be free from a difficult or dangerous situation, suggesting that someone has overcome a challenging period or is no longer facing imminent threats or problems.

We often use the phrase when someone is recovering from illness, overcoming financial difficulties, or resolving some kind of complex situation. The phrase implies that while the most challenging part is over, one must still remain cautious until completely secure.

 The Cambridge Dictionary keeps it simple and defines it as “not having a problem or difficulty any longer.” Furthermore, the Collins Dictionary defines it as:

  • “out of a dangerous, perplexing, or difficult situation; secure; safe”
  • “no longer in precarious health or critical condition; out of danger and recovering.”

This idiom hits home every time I finish writing my first draft of a book. After thirty novels, I still breathe a sigh of relief when I write “The End,” even though I know there’s still a long road of edits and marketing ahead of me. Writing the book is the hardest part, and getting to the end feels like I’m out of the woods.

Literal Meaning vs. Figurative Meaning

The literal meaning of out of the woods would involve physically exiting a forested area after a long trek or getting lost. Figuratively, it represents moving out of a troublesome or risky situation. The woods here symbolize the challenges or complications one faces.

Variations of the Idiom

There are a few variations of this idiom that maintain the original meaning but might be adapted for different contexts. For example:

  • Not out of the woods yet suggests ongoing challenges.
  • Almost out of the woods implies nearing the end of a difficult period.
  • Out of the wood with the S dropped is the British usage of the idiom.

How Is Out of the Woods Commonly Used in Context?

This idiom is versatile and can be applied to so many different situations. Here are a few instances to give you some ideas and tips for using them effectively.

What Are the Different Ways to Use Out of the Woods?

  • Literal survival: “After days of searching, they were finally out of the woods.”
  • Overcoming challenges: “Completing the project successfully, we are now out of the woods.”
  • Health improvement: “Jasper’s recovery is progressing well; he’s out of the woods with the illness.”
  • Financial stability: “With the new job, Luna is finally out of the financial woods.”
  • Resolution of a crisis: “The diplomatic talks were successful, and tensions are now out of the woods.”
  • Navigating difficulties: “We faced numerous obstacles, but with a solid plan, we emerged out of the woods.”
  • Ending a stressful period: “The hectic schedule is finally over, and we’re out of the woods.”
  • Environmental context: “The conservation efforts ensured that the endangered species is now out of the woods.”

What Are Some Tips for Using Out of the Woods Effectively? 

  • Context matters: Use out of the woods when someone has overcome a challenge or has a clear resolution to a difficult situation.
  • Be specific: Clearly state what challenges or difficulties are being overcome to emphasize the context of emerging from adversity.
  • Consider timing: Use the idiom when the resolution or improvement is recent or still relevant to the conversation.
  • Avoid overuse: Reserve the expression for situations where overcoming adversity is significant to prevent dilution of its impact.
  • Provide details: Offer additional information or context to enhance understanding of the challenges faced and overcome.

Where Can You Find Examples of Out of the Woods?

This idiom appears in literature and movies, often to denote a turning point in a character’s journey. “Out of the Woods” is the name of a 2005 movie starring Ed Asner and Jason London. It’s also the title of a popular Taylor Swift song from her 1989 album.

It’s also used in some publications:

“We won’t know if he’s out of the woods for a week or so.” (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

But after surgery, speaking Monday from his hospital bed at Ogden Regional Medical Center as he recuperates, he says he’s “out of the woods, maybe.” (The Standard-Examiner)

But General Manager Gary Wiser told a reporter on Tuesday the North Logan business is “not out of the woods yet” when it comes to dealing with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. (The Herald Journal)

What Is the Origin of the Idiom Out of the Woods?

Out of the Woods Ngram
Out of the woods usage trend.

The idiom out of the woods originated in the United States and has been traced back to the “Papers of Benjamin Franklin.” It gained notable recognition when Abigail Adams (1744-1818) used it in a letter dated November 13, 1800, contributing to its early documentation in American literature. This historical usage further solidifies its American roots and places it within the lexicon of idiomatic expressions that convey overcoming challenges.

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

While initially used in the context of physical danger in forests, the idiom has evolved to represent coming out from any difficult situation. It really depends on the person and the context because you can use the phrase formally and informally, but also for both light and heavy situations.  

What Are Some Related Terms to Out of the Woods?

There are so many ways to express this feeling. Here are a few alternatives to think about:

Out of the Woods – Idioms for Overcoming Difficulties 1


  • Turn the corner
  • Over the hump
  • In the clear
  • On the road to recovery
  • Past the worst


  • In hot water
  • Into the woods
  • In deep trouble
  • Up a creek
  • In a pickle

Out of the Woods: Test Your Knowledge!

Choose the correct answer.

What Have We Learned About Out of the Woods?

 The idiom out of the woods serves as a powerful metaphor, symbolizing the relief and safety felt after overcoming challenges.

Aren’t idioms so much fun? They really do give us fun new ways to express our thoughts and ideas and to make a situation more relatable for others. Now that we’ve covered the meaning, origin, variations, and proper usage of the idiom out of the woods, you’re all set to start using it like a pro! And be sure to keep beefing up your vocab with our other idiom guides!

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: