steal the show: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘steal the show’ mean?

When someone "steals the show," they attract the most attention and admiration, often by outshining others in a performance or event.

Idiom Explorer

Decoding Showstopper

The idiom "steal the show" is an expression commonly used in English. It means to attract all the attention or be the center of attention in a situation, event, or performance. When someone "steals the show," they captivate the audience or spectators with their performance or presence. This idiom is often used in live performances, like theater or concerts, where a particular actor, singer, or performer stands out and leaves a lasting impression on the audience. It implies that the person who steals the show overshadowed others and became the main focus of attention.

This phrase originated in the theater, where actors had the ability to divert attention from their fellow performers and attract it to themselves. It gained popularity beyond the theater and is now used to describe situations in everyday life where someone unexpectedly captures the spotlight. Additionally, "steal the show" can also be used to describe situations where an object or thing stands out and draws attention away from other elements in its surroundings. For example, a flashy sports car might "steal the show" at a car exhibition, garnering the most attention and admiration.

The standout actor outshines the rest on center stage.

When someone "steals the show," they might be compared to "stealing someone's thunder." This idiom means to take credit for someone else's idea or achievement, often by presenting it before they have the chance to do so themselves. Unlike "steal the show," which focuses on attracting attention, "stealing someone's thunder" is about taking away someone else's moment of recognition or success. It's like stealing someone's thunder by presenting their idea or achievement as your own.

Another related idiom is "show off." This phrase is used to describe someone who tries to impress others by displaying their skills, possessions, or accomplishments. While "steal the show" is about naturally attracting attention through exceptional performance or presence, "show off" implies a deliberate effort to seek attention and admiration by highlighting oneself. It's like trying to steal the show by intentionally showing off and drawing attention to oneself.

The idiom "steal the show" continues to be ingrained in the English language and is widely used to describe individuals or objects that stand out and captivate others. It conveys the idea of someone or something outshining others and becoming the focal point of attention. Whether it's a performer captivating an audience or an object drawing attention away from its surroundings, "steal the show" emphasizes the achievements, talents, or qualities that make a person or thing exceptional.

So, the next time you witness someone or something steal the show, remember the origins of this expression in the theater and appreciate the captivating effect it has on the audience. And if you see someone trying to steal someone's thunder or show off, recognize their attempts to divert attention and seek admiration. Ultimately, these idioms reflect the human desire to be recognized and celebrated, whether through exceptional performance, acquiring attention, or showcasing achievements.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom *steal the show* can be used in a sentence:

  • 1. "The actor's outstanding performance stole the show and left the audience amazed."
  • 2. "Despite being a supporting character, her comedic timing stole the show in every scene."
  • 3. "The grand finale's stunning fireworks stole the show and created an unforgettable spectacle."

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