Sailing is when people steer a sail boat that is powered by the wind in some sort of race over a distance.​

sailing idioms and sayings

Many idioms originated from sailing and here is a list of them with examples.

  • all hands on deck
    meaning – everyone is needed to help
    example – The order has to be finished by Monday so it’s all hands on deck to complete it.
  • get off to a flying start
    meaning – make a successful start
    example – My juice bar didn’t get off to a flying start, but it’s gaining popularity.
  • go overboard
    meaning – be too excessive/extreme
    example – You’ve bought 16 bottles of wine for 5 people? You always go overboard.
  • hit a snag
    meaning – an unexpected problem/issue/difficulty
    example – We’ve hit a snag. The car has broken down, I don’t think we’ll make it tonight.
  • jump ship
    meaning – leave an organisation and move to another
    example – Did the CEO really jump ship or was he pushed?
  • learn the ropes
    meaning – learn the basic principles of a particular job/task/activity
    example – I’ve been learning the ropes from my dad, he’s a good teacher.
  • on an even keel
    meaning – a calm/stable/balanced condition
    example – I’ve been travelling the world for 2 years. I can’t wait to be back home on an even keel.
  • plain sailing
    meaning – smooth and easy
    example – Our relationship hasn’t been plain sailing, but we love each other.
  • sail close to the wind
    meaning – do something risky/dangerous
    example – Bruno has been sailing too close to the wind lately. He’ll be in prison before long.
  • sail through
    meaning – easily pass/win/succeed
    example – I sailed through to the judges’ houses stage of X factor.
  • second wind
    meaning – another burst of energy to enable you to continue
    example – I should have a second wind once I’ve eaten lunch.
  • shape up or ship out
    meaning – start improving/behaving or leave
    example – My husband’s drinking is out of control. I told him to shape up or ship out.
  • show someone the ropes
    meaning – teach someone how to do a particular job/task/activity
    example – I’ve spent three weeks showing her the ropes but she’s still useless.
  • take the wind out of someone’s sails
    meaning – make someone less confident
    example – Lever has hit five aces in a row, he’s taken the wind out of Jackson’s sails.
  • that ship has sailed
    meaning – the opportunity has passed, it’s too late
    example – That ship has sailed, I missed the deadline to submit my application.

sailing idioms and sayings with pictures

sailing idioms and sayings
sailing phrases - all hands on deck
get off to a flying start
sailing sayings - go overboard
sailing sayings - hit a snag
sail phrases - jump ship
sailing phrases - learn the ropes
nautical phrase - on an even keel
sailing sayings - plain sailing
nautical phrase - sail close to the wind
sail phrases - sail through
nautical phrase - second wind
shape up or ship out
sail phrases - show someone the ropes
nautical phrase - stick one's oar in
sail phrases - take the wind out of someone's sails
nautical phrase - that ship has sailed

You can download a table of sailing idioms and sayings below.

If you’ve enjoyed this page, don’t forget to check out some more sports idioms by clicking on the links below.