Straight A’s

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Straight A’s is an American idiom. 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 common in American slang or British slang, 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 common saying straight A’s, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Straight A’s is primarily an American term and describes the act of scoring the highest possible marks in school. American schools distribute letter grades. Even numerical scores translate into letter grades: A, B, C, D, or F. A is the highest possible achievement; F is a failing grade. Someone who receives straight A’s has earned only grades that are of the highest caliber in all his subjects. The expression straight A’s came into use in the 1920s in the United States. Note that A’s is capitalized, which is how a letter grade is written when assessing an assignment, report, or test or when recording letter grades in a grade book or a report card. Also note that A’s is rendered with an apostrophe, even though it is depicting the plural and not the possessive.


A high-achiever who made straight A’s, her grades dropped last semester, causing her anxiety to skyrocket. (Winston-Salem Journal)

Despite the tragedy, Latasha earned straight A’s at Westchester High School and talked consistently about wanting to become an attorney and build programs for neighborhood youth when she grew up. (Los Angeles Times)

The only reason I have managed to make straight A’s so far this school year is because I am literally pushing myself to the breaking point, as I imagine many students are doing as well. (Gazette Newspapers)