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Level best

Posted by R. Berg on April 17, 2003

In Reply to: Level best posted by S. Ryan on April 17, 2003

: Any ideas on origin of "level best." Why "level?"

The Oxford English Dictionary labels "level" in "level best" as slang or colloquial and says it's of U.S. origin. It gives no further explanation. My hunch: "level" works like "straight" or "downright" or "flat out" here, also spatial metaphors denoting an absence of twists and turns and hence meaning "honestly" or "purely," as in "the straight story" or "That's flat-out illegal."