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30 Mar. “To hit the ground running.” What does this English expression mean?


This English expression is used to denote the act of getting off to a strong start. It can be used in a more literal sense in relation to starting off well in a race for example. The main use of the expression however is in a more metaphorical sense in order to denote doing well from the outset in any activity such as a job.


It is often suggested that this expression dates back to World War II. However this assertion has been proven to be untrue and in fact the expression originated in the United States in the late 19th century. The first recorded expression is found in a short story in the newspaper The Evening News from the year 1895. The story reads “the bullet went under me. I knew he had five more cartridges, so I hit the ground running and squatted low down when his gun barked a second time.”

After this first use of the expression it quickly caught on and throughout the 20th century was commonly used. The usage quickly spread across the English speaking world and was no longer confined to the United States. However up until 1940 the expression was used only in a literal context. It is in the October edition of The Hayward Review where the first recorded use of the expression is found. It reads “it sometimes seems to me that the young idea nowadays wants to hit the ground running and to tell the old editors how to run things.”


An example of the use of this expression can be found in a quote from American actor, Nicolas Cage. It reads “I hit the ground running, without a lot of training, so I had to do whatever I could do to survive as a professional, and if that meant being that character 24/7 and acting out, I was going to do that. I lived those characters, I brought them home with me.”

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