Push the envelope

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Push the envelope is an idiom that was originally jargon used in a specialized profession. We will discuss the meaning of the phrase push the envelope, where it originated and some examples of its use in sentences.

To push the envelope means to extend the boundary of what is possible, to take a risk by going farther than others think is acceptable. The term push the envelope was popularized in the early 1980s, following the publication of the book The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. The book The Right Stuff chronicled American pilots who tested high-speed aircraft, including the early astronauts. Tom Wolfe quoted pilots using the term “pushing the outside of the envelope” to describe challenging speed records and other aerial feats. The envelope in question is the flight envelope, which includes all possible aircraft maneuvers. The idiom most probably originated among American pilots during World War II. After the publication of Wolfe’s book, the term push the envelope migrated into everyday English to be used in a figurative sense. Related terms are pushes the envelope, pushed the envelope and pushing the envelope.


Kik, the popular North American chat app, is continuing to push the envelope in terms of chatbot functionality, launching a new feature that will allow users to chat to a concierge bot within a conversation with a fashion and beauty bot, according to VentureBeat. (Business Insider)

“Iran is continuing to push the envelope, trying to get as much as it can, even within the confines of this deal,” Dr. Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control Program at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told The Jerusalem Post on Sept. 5. (The World Tribune)