Par for the course

Par for the course is an idiom that has been in a little over fifty 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 or literary devices 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. An idiom may be a euphemism, an understatement or exaggeration, or an expression of irony or hyperbole. 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, red herring, hit the nail on the head, kick 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 term par for the course, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Par for the course describes something that may be expected, the usual, something that is normal. The idiom par for the course is most often used when one is annoyed. For instance, if one’s child falls sick the day the family is supposed to leave on vacation, it may be considered par for the course–assuming that something will always go wrong at the most inopportune time. However, the expression par for the course may simply describe something that is expected. For instance, an average student may take a test and receive a grade of “C”, which he may consider par for the course because that is the mark he usually receives on tests. The phrase par for the course is taken from the sport of golf. Par, in golf parlance, means the amount of strokes that a good player is expected to expend on a hole on the golf course. The idiom par for the course came into general used around 1950 and has climbed in popularity ever since.


The tussle over the seven-year budget is almost a tradition in the EU, with long meetings par for the course. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Over the top looks are par for the course, but one no one saw coming was a wearable model of Kardashian’s famous behind. (Forbes Magazine)

Par for the course this season for UL, though, Wilson later discovered he was battling through a knee injury worse than expected the final eight minutes of that game. (The Advocate)

It was par for the course in the celebrity-driven frenzy that Beck said he endured for 41 years in his rise to the top of the Los Angeles Police Department. (The Chicago Sun Times)

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