Raise the Bar – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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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.

Raise the bar means setting a higher standard or increasing expectations. Have you ever seen an athlete pushing their limits or a company launching a product that outshines all others? That’s raising the bar in action!

Idioms, like raise the bar, are phrases where the words together have a different meaning than their individual definitions. They add much-needed vibrancy to our language, turning plain sentences into colorful conversations layered with visuals. But their true magic shines when they’re used properly.

So, sit tight as I explain the details about this idiom’s true meaning and its origin and share some examples of it being used in a sentence.

Raise the Bar Meaning Explained

Raise the Bar – Idiom Meaning and Origin

The idiom raise the bar refers to setting a higher standard or expectation in any endeavor. It embodies the spirit of progression and ambition, urging individuals or groups to not just meet existing standards but to go beyond and establish new benchmarks. Whether in the realm of sports, arts, business, or personal growth, it’s a call to push boundaries and continually redefine what’s possible.

Take being an indie author, for example. Being my own publisher, I have to take marketing into my own hands. With each book I launch, I know I have to do better than last time, so I’m constantly setting the bar higher and higher, aka raising the bar.

Different Tenses to Use

  • Will Raise (future tense): “The introduction of this innovative technology will raise the bar for the entire industry.”
  • Raises (present tense): “This author’s latest book certainly raises the bar for modern literature.”
  • Raised (past tense): “I raised the bar so others could have room to grow.”
  • Raising (present continuous tense): “By adopting innovative strategies, the team is consistently raising the bar in marketing.”

Raise the Bar vs. Set the Bar: What’s the Difference?

They’re really similar; however, set the bar means establishing a specific standard or level, while raise the bar is all about elevating that standard even further. If setting the bar is laying down the challenge, then raising it is taking that challenge to the next level.

Raise the Bar Origin and Etymology

Raise the Bar Ngram
Raise the bar usage trend.

The idiom “raise the bar” came into use around 1900 and comes from the sport of track and field. The high jump event and the pole vault event both involve raising a crossbar incrementally to see how high the participants can jump or pole vault.

Synonyms for the Raise the Bar Idiom

  • Elevate standards
  • Heighten expectations
  • Push boundaries
  • Break the mold
  • Surpass the norm

How to Use Raise the Bar: Examples in a Sentence

Raise the Bar – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

Let’s take this idiom off the field and see how it fits in examples of everyday sentences.

  • The university raised the bar with its new, innovative curriculum.
  • This film festival raises the bar for cinematic creativity every year.
  • I love their commitment to excellence. They’re always raising the bar for competitors.
  • New technologies are completely raising the bar in healthcare and at-home care.
  • Donna never disappoints; she raises the bar in every musical performance.
  • By consistently training hard each day, he hopes to raise the bar and break records at the next Olympics.
  • Environmental initiatives are raising the bar for sustainable living around the world

Shoot for the Stars

Raise the bar is more than just an idiom; it’s an ethos, an encouragement to always strive for better in all aspects of life. When weaving it into our language, we’re invoking the spirit of ambition and excellence. Now, with a firmer grasp of this expression, you’re all set to work it into conversations with others! If you found this guide helpful, there’s a whole world of idioms waiting for you on our site.