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The meaning and origin of the expression: Go out on a limb

Go out on a limb

What's the meaning of the phrase 'Go out on a limb'?

Put oneself in an isolated position in one's support of someone or something.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Go out on a limb'?

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'Out on a limb'The limb being talked about here is the branch of a tree and 'out on a limb' is an allusion to climbing trees and going just a bit further than is comfortable.

All of us must remember that feeling of not wanting to go further out to reach that apple/ball or whatever for fear that the branch (limb) would break under us.

The first uses of 'out on a limb' in a figurative sense, that is, one where there is no reference to actual trees or climbing, come from the USA at the end of the 19th century.

An example of an early use of the phrase is found in the Steubenville Daily Herald, October 1895:

"We can carry the legislature like hanging out a washing. The heft [main part] of the fight will be in Hamilton country. If we get the 14 votes of Hamilton we've got 'em out on a limb. All we've got to do then is shake it or saw it off."

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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