at large: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘at large’ mean?

The idiom "at large" means being free and not confined or restricted. It is often used to describe someone who is still on the loose, typically a criminal or a dangerous person. The phrase can also be used to express that something is still unresolved or not clearly defined.

Idiom Explorer

Unraveling the Implied Significance

The idiom "at large" can describe someone who is still free or not captured by the authorities. This is often used to refer to a criminal or suspect who is on the loose and has not been apprehended. It implies that the person is roaming freely and poses a potential threat to society.

Furthermore, "at large" can also be used to describe something that is widespread or prevalent. It indicates that something is happening on a large scale or affecting a wide range of people or places. It suggests that the issue or phenomenon is not confined to a specific location or group.

The idiomatic expression "on the loose" is related to the phrase "at large." It is often used in the context of a dangerous criminal or animal that has escaped or broken free from captivity. Similar to "at large," "on the loose" portrays a sense of imminent danger and the need for caution.

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Additionally, the idiom "at loose ends" is also connected to the phrase "at large." "At loose ends" describes a person who feels restless, aimless, or without purpose. It conveys a sense of being unsure of what to do or how to occupy one's time. This idiom implies a state of unease or dissatisfaction, as if one is lacking direction or a clear plan.

The term "at large" has its origins in the Latin word "largus," meaning abundant or copious. In the Middle Ages, it referred to someone who was not confined to a specific place or region and had the freedom to move about. It signified a state of being unconstrained and unrestricted.

The phrase "at large" took on its current meanings over time. The use of the idiom to describe a fugitive or someone who is still on the run can be traced back to the 17th century. It was commonly employed in legal documents and court proceedings to indicate that a suspect was still at large and had not been captured by the authorities.

In a figurative sense, "at large" has also been used to describe something that is not easily contained or controlled. It can be used to depict an idea, concept, or problem that is elusive or difficult to pin down. This usage suggests that the subject is dynamic, constantly shifting, and resistant to conventional classification.

So, in summary, the idiom "at large" has multiple meanings and uses in the English language. It can refer to someone who is still free or not captured, something that is widespread or prevalent, or something that is difficult to contain or control. Its origins can be traced back to the Latin word "largus," and it has evolved over time to encompass its current range of meanings. The related idioms "on the loose" and "at loose ends" further enrich the linguistic landscape surrounding the phrase "at large." As a skilled and experienced editor, it is your responsibility to ensure that these idioms are presented clearly, concisely, and in a manner that resonates with a well-informed audience.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "at large" can be used in a sentence:

  1. After the prisoner escaped, the police warned the public to be cautious as he was still at large.
  2. The suspect is considered dangerous and is currently at large.
  3. The organization is searching for a new CEO to lead the company at large.

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