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Strike while the iron is hot

  • The phrase strike while the iron is hot is an idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. 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. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as kick the bucket, don’t count your chickens, barking up the wrong tree and piece of cake, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the phrase strike while the iron is hot, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To strike while the iron is hot means to grab an opportunity before it passes, to take advantage of an opportunity before it is too late. The idea is that one exploits good timing, knowing when the best moment to act in a given situation occurs. To strike while the iron is hot means to not dither, to act decisively. The idiom strike while the iron is hot may be traced back at least to the 1500s, and is a reference to the art of blacksmithing. When a blacksmith works iron, he heats it in order to make it malleable and then places it on an anvil and hammers it into shape. Of course, iron only stays hot enough to work for a limited amount of time, so a blacksmith must strike while the iron is hot in order to be successful. The idiom appears in many different languages such as Spanish ( al hierro caliente batir de repente), German (Das Eisen schmieden, solange es heiss ist), and Polish (Kuj żelazo póki gorące), as well as Serbian, Arabic, Portugues, Turkish, Croatian, Swedish and Finnish. Related phrases are strikes while the iron is hot, struck while the iron was hot, striking while the iron is hot.

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    Examples

    The Maine State Legislature has provided start-up funding in the fiscal year 2019 state budget for public school districts to begin new or expand preschool classrooms, and when it comes to funding from the state, Perzanoski said that in his experience it is better to “strike while the iron is hot.” (Times-Record)

    Senior Chance King, the linchpin of an aggressive General linebacker corps, said he has impressed upon the team to strike while the iron is hot. (The Times Recorder)

    But more often than not, it is the mere variables of the game that can separate a win from a loss and such was the case in Nov. 29’s match-up as the host school Bulldogs struck while the iron was hot and pulled out a 54-52 win that was gained in the final minutes of a hard fought game. (The Journal-News)


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