No Man’s Land – Definition & Meaning

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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.

What Does No Man’s Land Mean? Where did the term come from? No man’s land is an old phrase that dates back to the 1300s. It has a literal and figurative definition.

Let’s discuss the meaning and origin of no man’s land. I also share examples of how to use this idiom in a sentence so you can feel confident you’re using it correctly.

No Man’s Land Definition

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No man’s land is a singular noun that refers to an unclear situation that does not fit any category. It can also mean an undefined state of existence. In this sense, no man’s land is an idiomatic expression because we use its figurative definition.

Its literal meaning is the stretch of land that lies between the front line of two opposing armies. This piece of land is not owned or controlled by anyone. It can also refer to any land or area that is unowned, undesirable, or uninhabited.

Note that we use man’s as the possessive form of man and not as a plural form.

No Man’s Land Synonyms

Here are some synonyms or related words to no man’s land.

  • Badland
  • Nature
  • Outdoors
  • Forbidden ground
  • Wasteland
  • Barrens

No Man’s Land Origin

No Mans Land Ngram
No man’s land usage trend.

No man’s land came from the Old English spelling nanesmaneslande, first used in the 1300s to refer to a deserted place no one owns.

As a noun that refers to the area between the front lines of opposing armies, it was first used in the 1860s and became more popular during World War I.

Later, no man’s land’ meaning drastically changed to include a figurative one. This idiom now means an unclear situation that does not fit any category.

No Man’s Land in Sentences

  • The battlefield had become a no man’s land, with neither side daring to advance.
  • The abandoned factory was a no man’s land, with graffiti covering the walls and debris littering the floor.
  • That region between the two countries was a no man’s land, with no official border or control from either side.
  • Our discussion quickly devolved into a no man’s land, with both sides unwilling to compromise.
  • The area had become a no man’s land, with no one willing to take responsibility for its maintenance.
  • The disputed territory was a no man’s land, with both sides claiming ownership but no resolution in sight.
  • “ECM activity tends to be higher in periods of distress or where growth is strong, and today we’re in no man’s land,” said Gareth McCartney, who co-leads UBS’s global franchise. (Reuters)
  • Now more than a quarter of the way into the season, the Jazz find themselves in no man’s land of the NBA standings. (KSL Sports)

Learn More Idioms

No man’s land is one of the English terms you can use literally and figuratively. Remember:

  • The phrase literally means the stretch of land between the front line of two opposing armies or an unowned land.
  • Figuratively, it means an unclear situation that does not fit any category.