Plain sailing, smooth sailing, and clear sailing

Photo of author


Plain sailing, smooth sailing, and clear sailing are three variations of an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom variations plain sailing, smooth sailing, and clear sailing, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

Plain sailing, smooth sailing, and clear sailing are idioms that mean that things will become easier from this point on, that problems will melt away and that the hard times are over. Plain sailing is the oldest of these three idioms, dating from the 1700s. It is derived from the process of plane sailing, or plotting one’s course on a map as if the world were flat or a plane. Smooth sailing came into use in the 1800s, and clear sailing in the 1900s. Today, the phrase smooth sailing is the most popular iteration of the idiom, and clear sailing is the least popular.


However, the producer, who is sharing her experiences to mark World Breastfeeding Week, was quick to add that things were not exactly plain sailing. (The Daily Mail)

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has always preached to his teams that less waves in the summer means more smooth sailing during the season. (Sports Illustrated)

Although the results of the study indicate that herbivores are the most at-risk group, it is not clear sailing for predators. (Science Daily)