around the Horn: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘around the Horn’ mean?

The idiom *around the Horn* is derived from the nautical term *to go around the Horn*, meaning to sail around Cape Horn in South America. In idiomatic usage, it refers to traveling a longer or more difficult route to reach a particular destination or goal.

Idiom Explorer

Navigating High Seas

The idiom "around the horn" has various meanings, depending on the context. Literally, it refers to the journey of sailing ships around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. This route was often taken by ships sailing from the east coast of North America to the west coast during the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

Figuratively, "around the horn" is commonly used in baseball. It describes a baserunner who takes a wide path around third base to avoid being tagged out by the catcher at home plate. This tactic is employed when the baserunner believes they cannot outrun the throw from the outfield to home plate.

Another figurative use of "around the horn" is in the world of television. It refers to a programming schedule in which a show is syndicated and shown on different stations across the country, creating a circuitous broadcasting route. This use of the idiom is derived from the sailing journey around Cape Horn, as it implies a long and winding path.

The ship sailed around the horn during the navigation.

In everyday language, "around the horn" is colloquially used to mean taking a longer, more indirect route to reach a destination or achieve a goal. This usage is often associated with avoiding obstacles or difficulties along the way.

"around Robin Hood's barn" is a related idiom that shares similarities with "around the horn". It also means taking a circuitous route to reach a destination. The use of "Robin Hood's barn" adds a playful and whimsical element to the idiom, referencing the legendary character and his hideout. Just like "around the horn", "around Robin Hood's barn" implies a longer and less direct path.

"go around the houses" is another related idiom that has similarities with "around the horn". It means taking unnecessary or indirect steps to accomplish something. The phrase "go around the houses" suggests navigating through a maze of streets or obstacles, prolonging the journey. Like "around the horn" and "around Robin Hood's barn", "go around the houses" conveys the idea of a longer and more complex route.

The idiom "around the horn" has multiple meanings, ranging from its literal origin as a treacherous sailing route to its figurative applications in sports, television, and everyday language. The versatility of this idiom allows for a wide range of interpretations and usage, making it a fascinating and dynamic phrase to explore.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "around the Horn" can be used in a sentence:

  • The ship sailed around the Horn, encountering treacherous weather conditions.
  • The team is planning to travel around the Horn to reach their destination faster.
  • He took the long route around the Horn to avoid heavy traffic on the main road.

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