Step into the breach

Step into the breach is an idiom that has been in use for over a hundred years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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 helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom in step into the breach, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To step into the breach means to take up a task that has been abandoned by another, to take on a vital responsibility when others have not. The idiom step into the breach originated in the military. A breach is a gap in a wall or a gap in a line of defense through which the enemy may enter. The idea is that the person who steps into the breach puts himself between the item he is defending and disaster. Related phrases are steps into the breach, stepped into the breach, stepping into the breach. The expression step into the breach seems to have come into use in the 1800s, though a similar phrase is found in William Shakespeare’s Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead.” The phrase once more unto the breach means let us try again.


“As Catholic men and as Knights of Columbus, it is our duty to ‘step into the breach’ and play our part in the renewal of our families and the Church,” Anderson added. (The Catholic News Agency)

Now, the rest of us — Republicans, Democrats, independents, officeholders, civil servants, the media and ordinary voters — must step into the breach. (The Washington Post)

With White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany testing positive yesterday and resting up, Trump 2020 press communications director Erin Perrine stepped into the breach yesterday and made a very stupid argument indeed for why the Covid-denier-in-chief now has an advantage over his Democratic rival. (The Independent)

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