high road: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘high road’ mean?

The idiom "high road" means to take the morally right or responsible approach in a situation, often choosing to remain calm and respectful rather than resorting to aggression or retaliation.

Idiom Explorer

Intriguing Origins

The idiom "high road" has a specific meaning that has evolved over time. It is used to describe someone taking the morally superior or virtuous path in a situation, often choosing to act with integrity or fairness. The idiom "moral high ground" is closely related to the concept of the high road. It refers to the position of advantage or superiority that one obtains through upholding ethical principles and values.

One of the key aspects of the high road is its association with the concept of morality. By taking the high road, individuals are seen as choosing a more righteous and honorable course of action. This can be seen in various situations, such as resolving conflicts, dealing with difficult people, or making tough decisions. When someone takes the high road, they are not only doing what is right, but also asserting themselves as morally superior to those who choose a different path.

The high road and the concept of the "moral high ground" are interconnected. They both emphasize the importance of upholding ethical values and principles in various aspects of life. When someone takes the high road, they are essentially claiming the moral high ground in a situation. This means they are asserting their moral superiority and positioning themselves as the one who is right and just. Taking the moral high ground can be a powerful tool in debates or arguments, as it allows individuals to present themselves as the morally upright party.

The high road is also related to the idiom "high ground." When someone chooses to take the high road, they are figuratively standing on higher ground in terms of their moral character and principles. The concept of the high ground emphasizes the advantage and superiority that comes with doing what is right and just. Just as being physically on higher ground gives a better vantage point, being on the high road allows individuals to have a clearer perspective and maintain a sense of superiority over those who choose the low road.

Good manners reflect values and etiquette.

Another related idiom is "do right by." This idiom means to act in a fair and just manner towards someone. It is closely tied to the idea of doing what is morally right and treating others with respect and fairness. When someone takes the high road, they are essentially doing right by themselves and others. They are choosing to act in a way that is fair and just, even when it may not be the easiest or most convenient option.

The high road, moral high ground, high ground, and doing right by are all idioms that revolve around the concept of ethical behavior and integrity. They emphasize the importance of doing what is right and just, even in difficult situations. When individuals choose to take the high road, they not only demonstrate their moral character, but also inspire others to consider the importance of ethical behavior in their own lives.

The origin of the idiom "high road" can be traced back to the late 17th century, where it was first recorded in Scottish dialects. The term "high" refers to a superior position, both physically and metaphorically. In this context, the "high road" represents an elevated and noble course of action, contrasting with the "low road," which symbolizes a path of deceit or immorality.

Over time, the idiom "high road" has become widely recognized across the English-speaking world. It is commonly used in various written and spoken contexts, including literature, journalism, and everyday conversations. The idiom's popularity may be attributed to its succinctness and the clarity it provides in conveying a specific ethical stance.

While the idiom "high road" has a clear and widely accepted meaning, it can still evoke different interpretations depending on the context and individual perspectives. Some may argue that taking the high road implies passivity or naivety, while others see it as a powerful tool for positive change. Regardless of the interpretation, the high road remains a symbol of moral character and serves as a reminder of the importance of ethical behavior.

The idiom "high road" signifies acting morally and ethically in various situations. It reflects the contrast between choosing a virtuous path and succumbing to dishonest or dishonorable behavior. The related idioms "moral high ground," "high ground," and "do right by" further emphasize the importance of upholding ethical values and principles. With its roots in Scottish dialects, the idiom has become a familiar expression in the English language, emphasizing the value of integrity and moral principles. While its meaning is well-defined, the idiom retains a certain ambiguity that allows for individual interpretation. By taking the high road, individuals not only exemplify moral character but also inspire others to consider the importance of ethical behavior in their own lives.

Example usage

1. After being insulted by his coworker, Jake took the high road and decided not to engage in an argument.

2. When faced with a difficult decision, Sarah chose the high road by being honest and upfront with her boss.

3. Despite being treated unfairly, the team captain decided to take the high road and continue to lead by example.

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