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To the hilt

  • To the hilt is an idiom that has been in use for quite some time. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, 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 phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase to the hilt, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To the hilt means to the maximum, to the utmost, to the full extent. To do something to the hilt means to give your all, to put forth the most effort possible. The idiom to the hilt seems to have come into use in the mid-1700s and calls upon the imagery of sword fighting. The hilt is the handle of a sword, dagger, knife, or other stabbing weapon. To thrust such a weapon into one’s opponent as far as the hilt is the supreme, maximum sword fighting move. Today, the phrase to the hilt has nothing to do with weaponry, and is used in expressions such as living life to the hilt.

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    Examples

    There’s no way to know if these fans will continue to back the team to the hilt, or if they’ll revolt as they did under the Della Valles. (Viola Nation)

    States became more powerful, armed its security personnel to the hilt and turned them against perceived enemies, both within and beyond the borders. (The National Herald)

    One of the drivers, Scott Reid, said he had his six-pallet truck, a mate’s eight-tonne tipper and a people mover van “full to the hilt” with food, water and drinks, toilet paper, baby wipes, sanitary items and plenty more. (The Canberra Times)

    This is an excellent opportunity to confront the Modi Government and embarrass it to the hilt. (The Daily Pioneer)


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