Raise the Bar: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 13, 2023

The phrase "raise the bar" is commonly used to talk about setting higher standards or expectations. People often say this when they're talking about doing something better than before or pushing for better performance. For example, if a runner completes a race in record time, they have effectively "raised the bar" for other athletes. Similarly, you can raise the bar in your workplace by taking on more responsibility and doing your job well.

In short:

  • It means setting higher standards or expectations.
  • It can apply to sports, work, or personal goals.

What Does "Raise the Bar" Mean?

We use "raise the bar" when talking about improving standards or doing something better than before. If you "raise the bar," it shows you're not satisfied with just doing okay—you want to excel. You want to push yourself or others to get better results.

Let's dig into its main points:

  • When you "raise the bar," you're pushing for better performance or quality.
  • It often relates to goals. For example, if you get a good grade but think you can do even better, you "raise the bar" for yourself.
  • This phrase isn't just about one-time improvements. It's about setting a new standard that you or others should aim to meet or beat in the future.
  • People also use it in business to talk about outdoing competitors or offering something new and better.
  • Other ways to say it include "up the ante," "step it up," and "go the extra mile."

Where Does "Raise the Bar" Come From?

The term "raise the bar" likely started in sports, specifically high jump or pole vault events. The "bar" in this context is a literal bar that athletes try to jump over. As competitors clear the bar at a certain height, the bar is then raised to challenge them further. The phrase has been used in a broader sense, moving beyond sports to include any situation where standards or expectations are increased.

Historical Example

"They get on wonderfully when they have once acquired the knack; and although it may take wecks to raise the bar to three feet, he not disheartened-a very few lessons will get it up to five."

- The New Sporting Magazine, Volume 25, 1853

10 Examples of "Raise the Bar" in Sentences

To help you get a better grasp of how to use this phrase, let's go through some examples from various situations:

  • While holding the fort at the office, Jenna managed to raise the bar for customer service.
  • Raising the bar in customer service made his cafe popular in town.
  • Good on you for raising the bar in community involvement; the neighborhood has never been cleaner.
  • They raised the bar for smartphone cameras by adding advanced features.
  • With a steady hand, Dr. Thompson raises the bar in surgical precision.
  • After the success of their first project, they aimed to raise the bar even higher.
  • He raised the bar for future concerts by giving an outstanding performance.
  • The dynamic duo of Sarah and Mark raises the bar in investigative journalism.
  • Raising the bar in their friendship, they started talking every day.
  • He raised the bar at work by finishing tasks ahead of schedule.

Examples of "Raise the Bar" in Pop Culture

The phrase shows up often in popular culture, generally meaning that someone or something has set a new standard.

Let's look at some examples:

  • The book Raise the Bar by John Taffer discusses how to elevate the standards of bars and restaurants to achieve success.
  • John Wick: Chapter 4 raises the bar in terms of stunts and action sequences. It stars Keanu Reeves as John Wick, a retired hitman seeking vengeance.
  • The song "Raise the Bar" by Bonnie Anderson is about setting high standards in relationships. The lyrics include: "If you wanna get with me, get with me, you got to raise the bar."
  • Raising the Bar (2008) is a legal drama television series that follows the lives of young lawyers.
  • "Raising the Bar" (South Park) is a 2012 episode of the animated TV series South Park that satirizes society's lowering standards.
  • The article How to Raise the Bar on Employee Performance by American Express discusses methods to improve employee performance, including fostering a positive work environment and setting measurable goals.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Raise the Bar"

Many other phrases mean something similar to "raise the bar."

Here are some:

  • Step it up
  • Push the envelope
  • Go the extra mile
  • Up the ante
  • Set a new standard
  • Go above and beyond
  • Outdo yourself
  • Break new ground
  • Turn it up a notch
  • Take it to the next level

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Raise the Bar":

  • What does "raise the bar" mean?

"Raise the bar" means setting higher standards or expectations in a particular area or field. This can apply to work, sports, education, or any other situation where quality or performance matters.

  • How can I use "raise the bar" in a sentence?

You can use "raise the bar" as a verb phrase to describe the act of setting higher standards. For example: "She raised the bar for customer service in our department." "The new regulations will raise the bar for safety protocols."

  • Who generally uses this phrase?

People in leadership roles often use "raise the bar" to encourage improvement. It's also used in sports, academics, and business to talk about setting new records or achieving excellence.

  • Does it only apply to group settings?

No, you can "raise the bar" for yourself too, meaning you're aiming for higher goals or standards in your personal life or career.

  • Can it be used in negative situations?

Generally, "raise the bar" has a positive connotation about improvement and growth. But in some contexts, it could be seen as setting unrealistically high expectations that are tough to meet.

  • Is it related to physical bars?

Even though the phrase might make you think of a physical bar being lifted, it's actually metaphorical. It means elevating standards or expectations, not lifting an actual bar.

  • Is it always about competition?

No, "raise the bar" doesn't have to be about outdoing others. It can be about self-improvement or setting new internal standards for a project or task.

  • Can it apply to products or services?

Yes, businesses often "raise the bar" by offering better products or services to outperform competitors or to improve customer satisfaction.

  • Does it have a time frame?

There's no set time frame for "raising the bar." It could be a short-term goal or a long-term vision. It's all about the context in which you're using the phrase.

  • Is raising the bar the same as making progress?

They're related but not the same. Making progress means moving forward, while "raising the bar" is about setting a new, higher standard to aim for.

Final Thoughts About "Raise the Bar"

The phrase "raise the bar" pushes the idea of not settling for mediocrity. It encourages people to strive for excellence in their personal lives, at work, or in any endeavor. This phrase can serve as a motivational tool to boost productivity and inspire growth.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It is a call to set higher standards for yourself or a group.
  • It can be used in various fields like sports, business, education, and personal development.
  • The phrase doesn't have to be about beating others; it can also focus on personal growth and self-improvement.
  • "Raising the bar" doesn't always mean putting heavy pressure; it's about setting achievable yet challenging goals to inspire progress.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Copyright © 2024 - U.S. Dictionary
Privacy Policy