Grease the Skids: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
January 22, 2024

"Grease the skids" is often used to describe making a process easier or smoother. It implies taking actions that facilitate or expedite a task or process. This idiom can be applied in various contexts, from personal projects to business operations.

In short:

  • It means to make something easier or smoother.
  • It is used to describe actions that speed up a process or reduce difficulties.

What Does "Grease the Skids" Mean?

The phrase "grease the skids" is a figurative way of saying that someone is making a task, process, or path easier. It's like applying grease to make machinery work more smoothly. For example, a manager might say, "Let's grease the skids for the new project by setting clear guidelines." This means they want to make the project's initiation and progress smoother by removing potential obstacles.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It's about facilitating and easing processes.
  • The phrase is often used in business and personal contexts to suggest making an effort to reduce friction or resistance.
  • It implies proactive steps to ensure a smooth operation or transition.
  • Common in both spoken and written language, especially in a professional setting.
  • Similar expressions include "pave the way," "smooth the path," and "ease the process."

Where Does "Grease the Skids" Come From?

This phrase comes from a practical method where skids, or supports, were lubricated to aid in moving extremely heavy objects. It is thought to have originated in the shipbuilding industry, where skids were greased to make it easier to launch large ships from shipyards into the water. This is evidenced by historical records mentioning the use of tallows for greasing the skids during the launch of the Titanic. However, there is also evidence from the logging industry, where greased skids were used to move logs, suggesting this as another possible source of the phrase.

10 Examples of "Grease the Skids" in Sentences

To understand how to use this phrase in different contexts, let’s look at some examples:

  • The manager decided to grease the skids for the new policy by explaining its benefits in advance.
  • It's necessary to lie low and grease the skids with diplomacy and strategic concessions to avoid conflict.
  • She worked hard on her extracurricular activities to grease the skids for her college application.
  • They greased the skids for the event by setting up all the necessary equipment the day before.
  • With a well-timed favor to grease the skids, off we go, swiftly navigating through bureaucratic hurdles.
  • Before launching the software update, the team greased the skids with extensive beta testing.
  • She greased the skids for her career advancement by networking with industry professionals.
  • When someone greases the skids on my behalf, it strengthens the bonds of trust and cooperation.
  • That being said, greasing the skids effectively in any situation requires more than resourcefulness.
  • They gathered feedback from all departments to grease the skids for the new project.

Examples of "Grease the Skids" in Pop Culture

This phrase is used in various forms of media, often to describe actions that facilitate success or progress.

Let's explore some examples:

  • The article "Tuned In: Past TV Musical Successes Grease the Skids for 'Grease: Live!'" discusses the impact of previous TV musicals on the success of the live broadcast of "Grease: Live!"
  • The film review of "Heart of Champions" in Variety uses the phrase "grease the skids" to describe a character's actions in the college rowing drama, emphasizing the dynamics between the characters.
  • An article titled "B.C. universities grease the skids for marketable innovation" in the Vancouver Sun highlights how British Columbia universities are facilitating marketable innovation

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Grease the Skids"

Here are some alternative phrases that express a similar idea:

  • Facilitate the process
  • Smooth the way
  • Pave the way
  • Make things easier
  • Expedite matters
  • Clear the path
  • Set the stage
  • Lay the groundwork
  • Prepare the ground
  • Oil the wheels

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Grease the Skids":

  • What does "grease the skids" mean?

"Grease the skids" means to make a process or task easier or smoother, typically by removing obstacles or facilitating key steps.

  • How can I use "grease the skids" in a sentence?

You can use it to describe actions taken to simplify a process. For example: "We greased the skids for the project's approval by thoroughly preparing our presentation."

  • Is "grease the skids" a formal or informal expression?

It's more informal and typically used in conversational or business contexts to describe making things easier or more efficient.

  • Can "grease the skids" be used in a negative way?

While usually positive, it can be negative if it implies unethical methods to make things easier, such as bribery or cutting corners.

  • Is this phrase commonly used?

Yes, it's commonly used, especially in business and organizational contexts.

  • Does "grease the skids" have a literal meaning?

Originally, it likely referred to the literal act of applying grease to skids or platforms for moving heavy objects more easily, but now it's used metaphorically.

  • Are there any synonyms for "grease the skids"?

Yes, synonyms include "facilitate the process," "smooth the way," and "pave the way."

  • Can "grease the skids" be used in writing?

Yes, it can be used in both spoken and written English, especially in informal or conversational styles.

  • Does "grease the skids" imply a long-term or short-term process?

It can refer to both, depending on the context, but it often implies taking immediate actions to facilitate a process.

  • Is "grease the skids" specific to any particular field or industry?

No, it's a general phrase and can be used in various fields and industries whenever there's a need to describe making processes easier.

Final Thoughts About "Grease the Skids"

The idiom "grease the skids" is a useful metaphor for describing efforts to make tasks or processes smoother and more efficient. It's versatile and can be applied in various contexts, from personal projects to business and organizational settings.

To recap:

  • It's a handy expression for indicating facilitation and efficiency.
  • It can be used both positively and negatively, depending on the context.
  • The phrase can be used in both spoken and written communication.
  • It's applicable across different fields and industries to describe making tasks easier.

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