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The meaning and origin of the expression: To boldly go where no man has gone before

To boldly go where no man has gone before

What's the origin of the phrase 'To boldly go where no man has gone before'?

This introductory text was spoken at the beginning of many Star Trek television episodes and films, from 1966 onward:

Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before

Space: the final frontierThis line reinvigorated the last-lasting debate over split infinitives. These are infinitives that have an adverb between 'to' and the verb. Those grammarians who still cared about this in the 1960s complained that 'to boldly go' should have been 'to go boldly'. The debate had been simmering on and off for the best part of a century. As early as 1897, Academy magazine suggested that an insistence that split infinitives were incorrect was somewhat pedantic:

"Are our critics aware that Byron is the father of their split infinitive? 'To slowly trace', says the noble poet, 'the forest's shady scene'."

Most authorities now accept Star Trek into the grammatical fold and no longer care, or at least rarely publicly complain, about 'to boldly go'.

To boldly go where no man has gone beforeBy 1966, people cared more about implied sexism than doubtful grammar and the show's producers received criticism for the 'no man' part of the speech. Despite some recourse to the tradition defence of the use of 'man' to mean 'human', that is, 'man embraces woman', by the time Star Trek: The Next Generation was aired, in 1987, the shows producers had opted for the more politically correct last line - "Where no one has gone before". In that series the hirsutely challenged Patrick Stewart took on the role of the Star Trek's commander and wags could hardly miss the 'to baldly go' quip at his expense.

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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