At The Outset: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 3, 2023

"At the outset" means at the beginning or start of something. The phrase signals the initial stage of an event, situation, or process.  Often, this phrase helps set the stage for describing what comes next.

In short:

  • "At the outset" refers to the very beginning or start of something.
  • It helps in indicating what happened first or what was initially addressed.

What Does "At The Outset" Mean?

The phrase “at the outset” points to the initial stages of something. If someone uses this phrase, they're talking about what happened or what was addressed first. It's a way to emphasize the starting point before delving into more details.

Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:

  • "At the outset" describes the beginning moments or stages of a situation, event, or process.
  • You might use it to explain what occurred right away. For example, "At the outset of the project, we faced some challenges."
  • It sets the scene for further explanation or a sequence of events.
  • It's commonly used in both informal and formal contexts to highlight the starting point.
  • Some similar phrases are "from the start," "initially," "in the beginning," and "at first."

Where Does "At The Outset" Come From?

The term "at the outset" is believed to have roots in the idea of setting out or embarking on a journey or task. The word "outset" itself comes from the late 18th century and is a combination of "out" and the old verb "set," meaning to begin a journey. Its use shifted from a physical starting point to more abstract beginnings, such as the commencement of an event or process.

Historical Example

"In attacking a revolutionary state, the only wise and really economical course is to put forth a powerful force at the outset, and never permit a transient success to elevate the spirits of the people."

- History of Europe from the Commencement of the French ... , 1841

10 Examples of "At The Outset" in Sentences

To give you a better grasp of how to use this phrase, let's dive into some examples from different contexts:

  • At the outset, he looked down and seemed deep in thought.
  • She clarified her intentions at the outset, so there was no room for misunderstanding later.
  • The initial reviews bode well for our product right at the outset.
  • Taking the bull by the horns, he expressed his concerns at the outset of the meeting.
  • We planned to switch gears at the outset to surprise our competitors.
  • The coach laid down the rules at the outset to ensure everyone was on the same page.
  • At the outset of our meeting, I knew he had a bone to pick with me.
  • She accidentally pokes him in the eye at the outset of their playful fight.
  • She decided to dress to impress at the outset of the job interview.
  • Let me get with you at the outset to clarify our plans.

Examples of "At The Outset" in Pop Culture

The phrase is also present in pop culture, usually marking the beginning of a significant event or story.

Let's look at some examples:

  • Steve Toltz discusses the creative process in his writings, saying, "We have this atomic idea of the process where we want to believe that the creator of the book or the show had this whole brainy idea at the outset."
  • Becky Chambers' book "To Be Taught, If Fortunate" contains the line: "We step out of our solar system ... If I ask what I'm asking only of people who agree with me at the outset…”
  • A quote from the book Consumer Credit and the American Economy states: " ...vehicles at the end of the leases by paying at lease end a deferred optional purchase price agreed at the outset."
  • In his book, Chris Hadfield mentions: "Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But proclaiming your plus-oneness at the outset almost guarantees you'll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of…”

Other/Different Ways to Say "At The Outset"

There are other ways to convey the same meaning as "at the outset."

Here are some:

  • From the beginning
  • Initially
  • At the start
  • In the early stages
  • Right off the bat
  • From the get-go
  • At the inception
  • At the commencement
  • First and foremost

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "At The Outset":

  • What does "at the outset" mean?

"At the outset" means at the beginning or start of something, like an event or a process.

  • How can I use "at the outset" in a sentence?

Just use it into a sentence where you want to talk about the start of something. For example: "The stage decorations crash down immediately at the outset of the event," or "I was stuffed to the gills with food right at the outset of the party."

  • Can you give an example from pop culture using "at the outset"?

In the novel 'The Great Gatsby', Nick sets the tone of his story right at the outset, giving readers a glimpse of his life in New York.

  • Does it always refer to the very beginning of events?

Mostly, yes. "At the outset" generally points to the very start or the initial phase of something.

  • Is it used in casual conversations?

Yes, while it sounds a bit fancy, people use it in casual chats too, especially when they're talking about the start of something big or significant.

  • Are there other phrases similar to "at the outset"?

Phrases like "from the get-go," "right off the bat," and "from the beginning" can convey a similar vibe.

  • Can it be used in different contexts, like sports or business?

Yes. For instance, in sports: "At the outset of the game, the team displayed high energy." Or in business: "At the outset of the meeting, the CEO outlined the company's goals."

  • Is it only for positive beginnings?

The phrase is neutral. At the outset" can be used for any start, whether it's happy, sad, challenging, or anything in between.

  • Does using "at the outset" imply the outcome is known?

Not really. Just because something is mentioned "at the outset" doesn't mean we know how it will end. It's all about the starting point, not the destination.

  • How's it different from "in the beginning"?

While they're similar, "at the outset" often implies the initial phase of an event or process, while "in the beginning" can be broader, like referring to a more extended early period.

Final Thoughts About "At The Outset"

The phrase "at the outset" is a way to pinpoint the start of something. Whether it's the beginning of a journey, the first page of a book, or the kickoff of a match, it's all about setting the stage.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "At the outset" helps set the context for when something began, be it a big event or just a chat between pals.
  • You can spot it everywhere, from movies to novels to everyday convos. It's a versatile phrase!
  • It's not just about the good times. You can use it to discuss challenges, surprises, or any other start to a story.
  • So, the next time you're kicking off something new, think "at the outset!

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