take a flyer: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘take a flyer’ mean?

The idiom "take a flyer" means to take a risk or gamble without considering the potential consequences or likelihood of success.

Idiom Explorer


Take a flyer is an idiom that originated in the early 20th century. It is primarily used in American English and is commonly used in informal contexts. The idiom has a literal meaning as well as a figurative meaning, both of which will be explored in this analysis.

Literally, take a flyer means to engage in an act of risk-taking or to assume a chance without hesitation. This can be seen in the idiom's association with the world of aviation. The term "flyer" refers to an individual who flies an aircraft, and taking a flyer would mean to embark on a risky flight or venture. The idiom originated from the daredevil actions of early pilots who would take risks by flying in adverse weather conditions or attempting daring maneuvers. Over time, the term "take a flyer" began to be applied to other situations involving risk and uncertainty.

Figuratively, take a flyer has come to mean to take a chance or a leap of faith in a non-aviation context. It is often used to describe situations where one decides to pursue an opportunity despite the potential risks or uncertainties involved. This can be seen in phrases such as "I decided to take a flyer and invest in that startup" or "She's really taking a flyer by quitting her stable job to pursue her passion."

Take a chance and leap into the opportunity.

When someone decides to take a gamble, they are taking a risk or a chance without knowing the outcome. It is similar to taking a flyer in that both involve uncertainty and an element of daring. When you take a gamble, you are consciously deciding to embrace the potential rewards and consequences of the situation. It requires a certain level of courage and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Taking a gamble can be seen as a more deliberate and calculated form of risk-taking.

Similarly, when someone decides to take a chance, they are also choosing to embrace uncertainty and potential risk. Taking a chance is about being open to new possibilities and being willing to explore opportunities that may not have a guaranteed outcome. It requires a certain level of optimism and a belief in one's ability to navigate uncertain situations. Just like taking a flyer, taking a chance is an act of bravery and a demonstration of one's willingness to step outside of their comfort zone.

Another related idiom is "throw caution to the wind." This phrase is often used to describe situations where someone is taking a bold and fearless action. When you throw caution to the wind, you are disregarding potential risks or consequences and fully embracing the unknown. It is similar to taking a flyer in that it involves a sense of adventure and a willingness to take risks. Both idioms encourage individuals to let go of their fears and inhibitions and to seize opportunities, even if they may seem uncertain or risky.

Overall, the idiom "take a flyer" encompasses the ideas of risk-taking, chance, and embracing uncertainty. It originated from the world of aviation and has evolved to be applicable in various contexts. Whether someone is deciding to take a flyer, take a gamble, take a chance, or throw caution to the wind, they are demonstrating a willingness to go beyond their comfort zone, to take calculated risks, and to seize opportunities. These idioms remind us that sometimes, it is through taking a flyer that we can achieve great success.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "take a flyer" can be used in a sentence:

  1. She decided to take a flyer and invest all her savings in the new startup.
  2. After careful deliberation, he decided to take a flyer and apply for the job he thought was a long shot.
  3. Knowing it was a risky move, they still took a flyer on buying the rundown property with hopes of turning it into a thriving business.

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