High and Low: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 2, 2023

Imagine you've lost something important to you. What would you do? You'd likely search "high and low" for it! The phrase "high and low" refers to searching everywhere for something or someone, leaving no stone unturned. It’s a way to emphasize that you've done a thorough search.

In short:

"High and low" means searching everywhere for something, often with a sense of urgency or importance.

What Does "High and Low" Mean?

The phrase is pretty straightforward, but let's dive deeper to understand it fully.

  • Primarily, it's used to describe an exhaustive, comprehensive search for something or someone.
  • Occasionally, it could imply a sense of desperation or urgency in the search.
  • It can also signify a range of extremes, not just locations but also emotions and experiences.

So when someone says they've looked "high and low," you can pretty much assume they've looked everywhere.

Where Does "High and Low" Come From?

One of the earliest instances of a phrase resembling "high and low" can be found in religious texts like the Bible, but it's important to note that these may not be the origins of the idiom as it is commonly used today. Over the centuries, the phrase has been incorporated into literature, folklore, and everyday language, further solidifying its place in English vernacular.

Historical Usage

The phrase has been around for quite a while, with roots going as far back as the 15th century.

"And he sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu: when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the Lord with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom."

- 2 Chronicles 22:9, King James Bible

The Bible often contains some of the earliest recorded uses of many idioms we use today, and "high and low" is no different. The phrase has been popular ever since and has found its way into literature, speeches, and everyday language.

10 Examples of "High and Low" in Sentences

Let's look at how the phrase is used in different sentences to understand its various contexts better.

  • I've searched high and low for my keys but can't find them.
  • We looked high and low for parking, but everything was full.
  • She scoured the mall high and low to find the perfect dress.
  • I'm in a fix with this high-and-low situation at work, and I can't wait to be off work to sort it out.
  • They've been traveling high and low to collect data for their research.
  • The detectives searched high and low for clues.
  • After you blew your load on impulsive purchases, you searched high and low for your missing budget planner.
  • It's been an emotional rollercoaster, swinging from high and low throughout the day.
  • I've been high and low emotionally, dealing with the sudden curveball life threw at me.
  • We went high and low for the good of finding the lost puppy.

Examples of "High and Low" in Pop Culture

Interestingly, "high and low" has also permeated pop culture in a big way.

  • "High and Low" is a 1963 Japanese crime film directed by Akira Kurosawa.
  • The phrase was used in the song "Castle on the Hill" by Ed Sheeran: "Driving at 90 down those country lanes, singing to 'Tiny Dancer,' And I miss the way you make me feel, and it's real, we watched the sunset over the castle on the hill."
  • It appears in the TV show "Friends," where Ross says, "I've looked high and low for another woman like her."
  • In the video game "The Legend of Zelda," players search high and low for various treasures.
  • The term is often used in sports commentary to describe players who have searched high and low for opportunities to score or win.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "High and Low"

If you don't want to blow your load by using "high and low" too often, there are alternative expressions you can use:

  • Far and wide
  • Everywhere
  • Inside and out
  • All over

These expressions can easily replace "high and low" in most contexts.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "High and Low"

  • What does "high and low" mean?

It means searching thoroughly in every possible place for something or someone. The phrase can also refer to experiencing a range of extremes.

  • Where did the phrase "high and low" originate?

The idiom has roots going as far back as the 15th century and is found in various historical texts, including the Bible.

  • How is "high and low" used in sentences?

It's often used to describe an exhaustive search or range of experiences. For example, "I've searched high and low for my missing book."

  • Can "high and low" describe emotions?

Yes, it can sometimes describe a range of emotions or experiences, not just physical locations.

  • Is "high and low" used in other languages?

Similar expressions exist in other languages, but they might not translate directly.

  • Is it a formal expression?

The phrase is versatile and can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

  • Can "high and low" be used metaphorically?

Yes, it can be used to describe abstract things like searching for truth or meaning.

  • Is "high and low" commonly used today?

Yes, it's a widely used expression in both everyday language and in various forms of media.

  • Are there songs that use "high and low" in their lyrics?

Yes, several songs incorporate the phrase in their lyrics to emphasize searching or longing.

  • How can I replace "high and low" in a sentence?

You can use synonyms like "far and wide" or "everywhere" as replacements.

Final Thoughts About "High and Low"

In summary, the idiom "high and low" is deeply ingrained in our language and culture.

  • Primarily used to describe an exhaustive search.
  • Originates from as far back as the 15th century.
  • Widely used in pop culture, songs, movies, and literature.
  • Has various synonyms that can be used as replacements.
  • Can also refer to a range of experiences or emotions, not just locations.

Whether you're reading an old book, watching a contemporary movie, or just chatting with friends, you're likely to encounter this term. It's a testament to this idiom's staying power and utility that it continues to be widely used and understood, adding richness and depth to our language.

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