Hold the Line: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 13, 2023

The phrase "hold the line" usually refers to maintaining a position or staying strong in a challenging situation. Often heard during phone calls to indicate waiting, it has broader applications and is also used in battles, management, or any situation requiring resilience or persistence.

In short:

  • It means to stay strong or maintain your position during tough times.
  • You'll hear it when someone wants to keep things the way they are instead of changing them.

What Does "Hold the Line" Mean?

When someone says "hold the line," they're asking you to stay put and not give in, even when things are tough. It can be used during a battle to mean don't retreat, or in a work setting to mean keep doing what you're doing, even if it's hard. For example, during a tough game, a coach might say, "We need to hold the line and not let them score.

Let's look at its main meanings and how to use it:

  • It's about keeping your ground, not giving in or changing course.
  • You might use the phrase when you want people to keep their focus and not get sidetracked.
  • The term is often heard in challenging situations, where it acts as a call for continued effort or resilience.
  • It's not just for life-or-death situations; you might hear it in business or sports contexts, too.
  • Other ways to say it include "stay the course," "stick to your guns," and "don't back down.

Where Does "Hold the Line" Come From?

The phrase “hold the line” has been used in military contexts, referring to soldiers maintaining their positions during combat. In telecommunication, the phrase “hold the line” has been used since 1912, warning that one is away from the receiver. Today, it is used idiomatically to mean firmly maintaining one’s viewpoint, principles, or situation, refusing to change one’s practices or plans.

Historical Example

"Gim me hold, sir! Gim me hold! I'll haul him in he cried. But I would not trust my drum to him; I Ict him hold the line for a minute or two, while I blew on my sore fingers."

- St. Nicholas, Volume 4, 1877

10 Examples of "Hold the Line" in Sentences

To get a better feel for when to use "hold the line," let's look at some examples from various situations:

  • The coach told the team to hold the line and defend their lead in the final minutes.
  • During the conference call, the operator said, "Please hold the line while we connect you."
  • While I work alongside you, let's hold the line and make sure our team meets its goals.
  • During the protest, the demonstrators aimed to hold the line against police advances.
  • In the back of the room, several managers decided to hold the line against any changes in policy.
  • Investors were told to hold the line and not sell their stocks despite market volatility.
  • A strong work ethic will go a long way when trying to hold the line in a competitive environment.
  • The teacher told the students to hold the line and stay in their positions during the fire drill.
  • I'm not yanking your chain; we really need to hold the line to keep the project on schedule.
  • New rules put in place last year help us hold the line when it comes to maintaining our company's reputation.

Examples of "Hold the Line" in Pop Culture

This phrase also shows up a lot in pop culture, usually when people need to stand firm or keep their position.

Here are some real-world examples:

  • The song “Hold the Line” by Toto contains the lyrics: "It’s not in the way you look or the things that you say that you’ll do / Hold the line / Love isn’t always on time."
  • Michael Fanone, in his book “Hold the Line: The Insurrection and One Cop’s Battle for America’s Soul,” wrote: "When he got to the front of the line, he urged his fellow officers to hold it against the growing crowd of insurrectionists...
  • The TV show “Please Hold the Line” is about cable technicians in Eastern Europe navigating the modern-day Tower of Babel. With unflappable humor and a dose of philosophy, the technicians hold the line in a dissonant world.

Other Ways to Say "Hold the Line"

Here are some other phrases you can use to express the same idea:

  • Stand your ground
  • Stick to your guns
  • Don't back down
  • Stay put
  • Keep at it
  • Stay the course
  • Don't give in
  • Stand firm
  • Hang in there
  • Don't waver

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Hold the Line":

  • What does "hold the line" mean?

"Hold the line" can mean two things. In a literal sense, it often refers to keeping a phone line open. In a figurative sense, it means to maintain a position or to stand firm, often in the face of challenges or opposition.

  • How can I use "hold the line" in a sentence?

You can use it both literally and figuratively. For example, "Please hold the line while I transfer your call" or "We need to hold the line and not give in to the pressure."

  • Is it more common in specific settings?

The phrase shows up in a range of places. In professional settings, it might mean maintaining a company's standards. In sports, it could refer to defending a lead. In daily conversation, it might relate to personal boundaries or beliefs.

  • Is "hold the line" used globally?

Yes, "hold the line" is understood in many English-speaking countries, although the context might vary.

  • Can you use it in written form?

Definitely. It can show up in articles, emails, or messages, often to emphasize the need for sticking to a course of action or to request that someone waits on the phone.

  • How is it different from "stand your ground"?

While both phrases mean to stand firm, "hold the line" often implies a collective effort or a broader context, whereas "stand your ground" is more individualistic.

  • Is it a polite or rude phrase?

The phrase is usually seen as neutral or polite. However, how it's received depends on the tone and situation.

  • What's its role in military terms?

In military contexts, "hold the line" usually refers to maintaining a defensive position against an enemy force.

  • Can it be used in discussions about morals or ethics?

Yes, you can use "hold the line" when talking about sticking to moral or ethical principles in challenging situations.

  • Does it have a time limit?

No, "hold the line" doesn't specify a time limit. It's more about the act of remaining firm, whether that's for a short or long period.

Final Thoughts About "Hold the Line"

This phrase is versatile and used in a lot of different scenarios. Whether you're talking about keeping a phone line open or standing firm in your beliefs, "hold the line" is a useful expression for both.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It can be used both literally and figuratively.
  • It's a phrase that's understandable in various settings and across cultures.
  • It can be used in written and spoken English.
  • It's generally considered a polite or neutral term, depending on the context.

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