Get Out of the Way: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 30, 2023

The phrase "get out of the way" can mean different things depending on the situation. Often, it's used when someone or something is blocking the path and needs to move to allow others to pass. It can also refer to stopping oneself from being an obstacle to a process or activity. In a broader sense, it might mean removing oneself from a situation or avoiding involvement in something.

In short:

  • It can mean to move so others can pass physically.
  • It can also mean not interfering with a process or activity.

What Does "Get Out of the Way" Mean?

When someone says "get out of the way," they're usually asking for space to move or to proceed with something. It's a common phrase that means to move aside or stop blocking progress. For example, in a busy kitchen, a chef might say it to someone blocking the area where they need to work. Or, in life, it might mean to stop preventing something from happening, like stepping aside to let a friend decide without your influence.

Let's dig into its core meanings and usage:

  • It's a request for someone to move aside and allow others to pass or proceed.
  • The phrase is used when someone's presence is blocking or hindering an activity.
  • It can be a way of telling someone to stop being an obstacle to progress or decision-making.
  • "Get out of the way" is used in both physical and metaphorical contexts.
  • Similar expressions include "move aside," "clear the path," or "let through."

Where Does "Get Out of the Way" Come From?

The origin of "get out of the way" isn't precisely known, but it's a direct request that has been used in English for many years. The phrase likely developed from the need for clear communication in situations where it was important to remove obstructions, whether in physical spaces or more abstract, metaphorical scenarios.

Historical Example

" Is it likely to get out of the way of danger, by going out of the way of God?" 

- The Whole Works of the Rev. Oliver Heywood: Now First Collected ..., Volume 5, 1826

10 Examples of "Get Out of the Way" in Sentences

The versatility of the idiom "get out of the way" becomes evident when we see it used in different contexts.

Here are ten examples:

  • While rushing to the emergency room, the paramedic shouted, "Please get out of the way!"
  • Quite frankly, it's time for the old management to get out of the way and let the new generation lead.
  • If you're not going to help, then just get out of the way.
  • In the meantime, we need to get these obstacles out of the way before we can proceed with the project.
  • She decided to get her doubts out of the way and take a leap of faith.
  • The coach told the substitute players to get out of the way of the starting lineup during practice.
  • Once we get these regulatory issues out of the way, the company can expand more freely.
  • She wished the media would get out of the way and let her move forward in peace.
  • After the concert, security had to help the band get out of the way of riled-up fans.
  • Before starting the presentation, John wanted to get all the preliminary details out of the way.

Examples of "Get Out of the Way" in Pop Culture

The phrase "get out of the way" has resonated beyond everyday language, finding its place in various forms of popular culture.

Here are some examples:

  • The movie "Speed" starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, has multiple instances where characters shout "get out of the way" due to the high-speed bus that can't slow down.
  • In the television series "Grey's Anatomy," there's an episode where a doctor yells, "get out of the way" during a critical medical emergency.
  • The phrase has been used as a title for books such as "Get Out of the Way" by Daniel Dicker, focusing on the changing world of energy production and consumption.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Get Out of the Way"

While "get out of the way" is a popular expression, numerous other phrases and idioms can communicate a similar message.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Step aside
  • Make way
  • Move over
  • Clear the path
  • Give space
  • Back off
  • Move it
  • Make room
  • Shift over
  • Stand back

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Get Out of the Way"

  • What does the idiom "get out of the way" generally mean?

It typically means to move oneself or something so as not to block, obstruct, or hinder someone or something. However, it can also be used figuratively to indicate removing obstacles or barriers in various contexts, such as business or personal growth.

  • Where did the phrase "get out of the way" originate?

The phrase traces back many centuries and evolved from navigating through space and avoiding obstacles in crowded areas. Over time, it transitioned from a literal instruction to a more metaphorical use.

  • Can the phrase be used in both literal and figurative contexts?

Yes, "get out of the way" can refer to physically moving out of someone's path or, figuratively, to removing obstacles or barriers in a situation.

  • How is "get out of the way" used in music and movies?

It can be used in songs to convey a message of overcoming challenges or in movies during intense scenes, like car chases or emergencies, to add drama and urgency.

  • Are there other idioms similar to "get out of the way"?

Yes, there are several idioms and phrases that convey a similar message, such as "step aside," "make way," and "move over."

  • Is the idiom used universally, or are there cultural differences in its interpretation?

While the phrase is widely understood in English-speaking countries, its direct translation might not hold the same meaning in other languages or cultures. It's always best to be aware of cultural nuances when using idioms.

  • Can the phrase be used humorously?

Yes, like many idioms, "get out of the way" can be used humorously depending on the context and tone of the conversation.

  • How has the use of the idiom evolved over time?

While originally used in a literal context, the idiom has expanded to represent the idea of not obstructing progress or innovation, especially in areas like business or politics.

  • Is the idiom more commonly used in any specific contexts or settings?

It's versatile and can be found in a range of settings, from casual conversations to professional environments. However, its use might be more prevalent in situations that require urgency or clarity.

  • Do younger generations understand and use this idiom?

Yes, the idiom "get out of the way" is still widely understood and used by younger generations, though its use might vary based on regional or cultural influences.

Final Thoughts About "Get Out of the Way"

The phrase "get out of the way" is a straightforward expression used to clear a path or to encourage non-interference. It's applicable in various scenarios, from daily life to emergencies.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It can be used both literally and figuratively.
  • It's a direct phrase that can be seen as a command or request.
  • The phrase can be perceived differently based on tone and context.
  • It has its place in ensuring safety and promoting independent action.

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