Running Short of: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 14, 2023

"Running short of" is an idiomatic expression that vividly conveys the notion of being on the brink of a deficiency, whether it pertains to physical necessities like money or intangible resources such as patience and time. This phrase encapsulates the urgency and significance of having insufficient quantities of something crucial.

In short:

  • "Running short of" implies a shortage or a lack of something important.

What Does "Running Short of" Mean?

When someone says they are "running short of" something, they mean they are experiencing a shortage or insufficient supply of that particular thing. This idiom commonly expresses a lack of essential resources, time, or even patience. Here are some key aspects of its meaning:

  • "Running short of" indicates an imminent scarcity or shortfall.
  • It can refer to a lack of physical objects like money, food, or fuel.
  • This idiom can also denote a shortage of abstract concepts like time, energy, or patience.

It's important to note that "running short of" is a versatile idiom that can be applied to situations where insufficiency or depletion is involved.

Where Does "Running Short of" Come From?

The idiom "running short of" can be traced back to the evolution of the English language. While it's challenging to pinpoint the exact moment it was first used, idioms like this often develop organically over time. This phrase likely emerged from the need to describe the experience of depleting resources.

Historical Examples

In the 19th century, during the era of industrialization, reports of factories "running short of" coal and other vital materials became increasingly common.

During World War II, newspapers carried headlines about soldiers "running short of" rations on the front lines.

10 Examples of "Running Short of" in Sentences

Here are ten examples that illustrate the usage of "running short of" in different contexts:

  • I'm running short of cash, so bringing my credit card may come in handy.
  • We're running short of time to finish this project before the deadline, so we move forward to the next process as fast as possible.
  • She's running short of patience with her noisy neighbors who love gossiping on the street.
  • The restaurant is running short of ingredients for tonight's special.
  • They are running short of fuel, and there's no gas station nearby. It is worth a shot to check the next city for gas stations.
  • The company is running short of skilled workers, which is affecting production. In the light of this event, they need to hire more workers immediately.
  • Due to the pandemic, many businesses are running short of customers, so they need to seal the deal with new partnerships.
  • Our family is running short of groceries; we need to go shopping soon.
  • He's running short of ideas for his essay on creativity due to a lack of sleep and motivation.
  • Although the marathon runner tried to clutch up at the start of the race, he ran short of energy in the final stretch.

Examples of "Running Short of" in Pop Culture

In the world of pop culture, idioms like "running short of" often find their way into various forms of entertainment, adding depth and relatability to stories and characters. Here are some examples of the idiom used in pop culture.

  • In the song "Money, Money, Money" by ABBA, the lyrics mention "running short of a dollar."
  • In the TV series "Breaking Bad," Walter White often finds himself running short of options as he delves deeper into the world of crime.
  • In the novel "The Martian" by Andy Weir, the stranded astronaut Mark Watney is constantly running short of vital supplies on Mars.
  • In the video game "The Sims," players must manage their virtual characters' resources, often running short of money or time.
  • In the stand-up comedy of Louis C.K., he humorously recounts his experiences of running short of patience as a parent.
  • In the TV show "Survivor," contestants frequently find themselves running short of food and resources during their time on the island.
  • In the novel "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, the characters are constantly running short of food and water in a post-apocalyptic world.
  • In the movie "Cast Away," Tom Hanks' character, stranded on a deserted island, is always running short of basic necessities.
  • In the song "Time Is Running Out" by Muse, the lyrics convey a sense of urgency and running short of time.

Synonyms: Other Ways to Say "Running Short of"

Language is rich with synonyms, and if you want to express the idea of "running short of" in a different way, here are some alternatives:

  • Experiencing a shortage of
  • Running low on
  • Depleting resources
  • Scarcity of
  • Insufficient supply of

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Running Short of"

  • Where does the idiom "running short of" originate?

The exact origin of the idiom is unclear, but it likely developed over time to describe situations of scarcity or insufficiency.

  • Are there variations of the idiom "running short of"?

While "running short of" is the most common form, you may encounter variations like "run short of" or "ran short of," which convey the same meaning.

  • Can "running short of" only refer to physical resources?

No, "running short of" can refer to both physical resources like money or food and abstract concepts like time or patience.

  • How can I use "running short of" in a sentence?

You can use it to express a shortage of something, for example: "I'm running short of time to finish my assignment."

  • Is "running short of" a formal or informal expression?

"Running short of" is generally an informal expression used in everyday conversation.

  • Can you provide historical examples of "running short of" being used?

During the 19th century, factories were reported to be "running short of" essential materials, and in World War II, soldiers often found themselves "running short of" rations on the front lines.

  • Are there idiomatic expressions similar to "running short of"?

Yes, there are similar idioms like "running out of," "in short supply," and "falling short," all of which convey a sense of shortage or insufficiency.

  • Can "running short of" be used in a positive context?

While it's more commonly used in a negative context to indicate a shortage or problem, it can be used in a positive way with a bit of creativity, such as "I'm running short of compliments for your amazing work."

  • Are there regional variations in how "running short of" is used?

The idiom is generally used consistently across English-speaking regions, but specific expressions and slang may vary.

  • How can I improve my understanding of idiomatic expressions like "running short of"?

Reading and listening to English in various contexts, such as literature, movies, and conversations, can help you become more familiar with idiomatic expressions and their usage.

Final Thoughts About "Running Short of"

In summary, the idiom "running short of" is a versatile expression used to convey shortages or insufficiencies in various aspects of life. Whether it's a lack of time, resources, or patience, this idiom paints a vivid picture of the challenges we encounter. It has a rich history and has made its way into pop culture, adding depth to our language.

  • "Running short of" signifies a shortage or depletion of something essential.
  • Its origins can be traced back to the evolving English language.
  • This idiom has been used in historical contexts, including during industrialization and wartime.
  • It appears in various forms in literature, music, and entertainment, reflecting its relevance in pop culture.
  • There are synonyms and similar idiomatic expressions that convey the same idea of insufficiency.

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