Fall by the Wayside: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 28, 2023

To "fall by the wayside" means to fail, give up, or be left behind in some activity or endeavor. It implies that someone or something started with a specific intention or expectation but could not keep up with the pace, pressure, or competition.

In short:

  • It means to fail to continue, drop out, or be left out of something.

What Does "Fall by the Wayside" Mean?

The idiom "fall by the wayside" means failing to persist in an endeavor or undertaking. This can mean giving up, dropping out, quitting, or being unable to cope with something. For example, a student who stops studying for an exam might "fall by the wayside" and fail the test.

Where Does "Fall by the Wayside" Come From?

The origin of the idiom "fall by the wayside" can be traced back to a biblical story known as the Parable of the Sower. Jesus tells this story in the New Testament of the Bible, and it appears in Matthew 13:4, Mark 4:4, and Luke 8:5. The story is about a farmer who sows seeds on different soil types. Those types of soil represent different types of people. Those who "fall by the wayside" do not understand or accept the word of God and are easily tempted or distracted by other things.

10 Examples of "Fall by the Wayside" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how to use this idiom in sentences:

  • She wanted to be a writer but fell by the wayside when she married and had children.
  • Oh, snap. The yard was littered with cars that had fallen by the wayside due to accidents.
  • He tried to keep up with his friends but fell by the wayside when they started using drugs.
  • She had a promising career as a singer but fell by the wayside after a scandal ruined her life.
  • Quite frankly, the old traditions have fallen by the wayside as people adopt modern lifestyles.
  • He was a loyal friend but fell by the wayside when he moved to another country and lost contact.
  • Real talk: Many students who start college with high hopes often fall by the wayside and drop out.
  • The ambitious project barely made it as it fell by the wayside due to a lack of funding and support.
  • That sucks. He had a lot of goals, but he let them fall by the wayside when he became lazy and complacent.
  • No mean feat. The company had many competitors, but many fell by the wayside as it dominated the market.

Examples of "Fall by the Wayside" in Pop Culture

Here are some examples of how this idiom has been used in various forms of popular culture:

  • The song "Fall by the Wayside" by the rock band The Veer Union is about overcoming obstacles and not giving up on one's dreams. The chorus goes: "I won't fall by the wayside / I won't give up on this fight / I won't let go of this life / I won't fall by the wayside."
  • The novel "Fall by the Wayside" by Karen Welch is a historical fiction set in the 1930s. It follows the lives of two sisters who faced challenges and choices during the Great Depression and World War II.
  • The episode "Fall by the Wayside" of the drama series "The Fosters" is about a family dealing with various issues, such as adoption, foster care, sexuality, and identity. The title refers to how some characters feel left out or neglected by their loved ones.
  • The documentary "Fallen by the Wayside" by David Sutherland is about three homeless men who struggle to survive and find hope in Los Angeles. The title reflects their marginalization and isolation from society.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Fall by the Wayside"

Here are some synonyms for this idiom:

  • Give up
  • Quit
  • Drop out
  • Fail
  • Flop
  • Collapse
  • Fold
  • Break down
  • Fall through
  • Fall short

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Fall by the Wayside"

Here are some common questions that people might have about this idiom:

  • What does "fall by the wayside" mean?

It means to fail, give up, or be left behind in some activity or endeavor. It implies that someone or something started with a specific intention or expectation but could not keep up with the pace, pressure, or competition.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "fall by the wayside"?

The origin of the idiom "fall by the wayside" can be traced back to a biblical story known as the Parable of the Sower.

  • What are some synonyms for "fall by the wayside"?

Some synonyms for "fall by the wayside" are give up, quit, drop out, fail, flunk, flop, collapse, fold, break down, fall through, and fall short.

  • What is the opposite of "fall by the wayside"?

The opposite of "fall by the wayside" is to succeed, persist, continue, or receive attention or help.

  • Is "fall by the wayside" a negative expression?

Yes, it is usually a negative expression that implies failure, disappointment, or abandonment. However, it can also be used in a positive or neutral way, depending on the context.

  • Is "fall by the wayside" formal or informal?

It is neither formal nor informal. It can be used in both casual and professional settings, as long as it fits the tone and purpose of the communication.

  • Is "fall by the wayside" an American or British phrase?

To use "pour salt in the wound" in a sentence, you need to have two parts: one that describes the dire situation and one that explains how someone makes it worse by saying or doing something hurtful or insensitive.

  • What part of speech is "fall by the wayside"?

It is a verb phrase that consists of three words: fall (verb), by (preposition), and wayside (noun). It can also be used as part of a noun phrase.

  • What is the difference between "fall by the wayside" and "fall on deaf ears"?

Both expressions imply a lack of attention or response, but they have different subjects and objects. "fall by the wayside" means that something is ignored or neglected by others, while "fall on deaf ears" means that someone ignores or disregards something that is said or suggested.

  • What is the difference between "fall by the wayside" and "fall into place"?

Both expressions use the verb "fall," but they have opposite meanings and moods. "Fall by the wayside" means to fail or give up on something, while "fall into place" means to work out or happen as expected. "Fall by the wayside" has a negative connotation, while "fall into place" has a positive connotation.

Final Thoughts About "Fall by the Wayside"

The idiom "fall by the wayside" is a common and useful expression that can describe various situations of failure, abandonment, or neglect.

In summary:

  • It means to fail, give up, or be left behind in some activity or endeavor.
  • It comes from a biblical parable about seeds that fell by the side of a road and were eaten by birds.
  • It can describe people or things that do not succeed, continue, or receive attention or help.
  • It has many related expressions that have similar meanings.

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