Steal Away: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
October 9, 2023

The phrase "steal away" primarily refers to the act of departing or leaving quietly and discreetly. When someone "steals away" from a gathering or location, they do so without drawing attention to themselves or without being noticed by others. For instance, someone might "steal away" from a party or an event if they wish to avoid a formal goodbye or sidestep a potentially uncomfortable situation.

In short:

"Steal away" means to leave quietly or secretly.

What Does “Steal Away” Mean?

The idiom is another way of describing a subtle or unobtrusive exit. Let's check the key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • To leave quietly or secretly: This is perhaps the most common usage. "Steal away" means to depart or exit without attracting attention.
  • To elope or run off together: Often used romantically or in literature, it means to run off together, often without the knowledge or approval of others.
  • To spend time: It can sometimes be used to indicate snatching moments for a particular activity, especially in busy or challenging situations.

Where Does “Steal Away” Come From?

"Steal Away" is an idiom that holds historical, cultural, and spiritual importance. Its origins are not solely linguistic; they also carry the weight of a historical narrative.

Historical Usage

One of the most significant usages of the term "steal away" can be found in African-American spirituals during the 19th century. The phrase was used in a context that alluded to escaping or "stealing away" from the harsh conditions of slavery.

"Steal away to Jesus, steal away. Steal away, steal away to Jesus. Ain't nobody know but you and me."

"Steal away to Jesus," a spiritual song, uses this phrase to symbolize slaves' longing for freedom and salvation. It was not just a religious song but also a coded message. For many enslaved individuals, it meant a clandestine meeting was taking place, or an escape plan was in the works.

Today, while it can still refer to a discreet or secretive departure, it has also come to mean leaving or slipping away for more benign reasons, like needing a quiet moment or evading a cumbersome situation

10 Examples of "Steal Away" in Sentences

Idioms bring color to language. Here are some ways you might hear "steal away" used:

  • I'm going to steal away for a few minutes, but until then, let's focus on the task at hand.
  • She managed to steal away from the crowd unnoticed.
  • When no one was looking, he stole away.
  • The secret spot where we often steal away dates from our childhood adventures.
  • "You managed to steal away the last piece of pie? "Yaas, I did!"
  • Can you steal away for a moment? I need to tell you something.
  • I noticed him stepping out to steal away a few moments of solitude.
  • If things get too intense, we can steal away to the balcony.
  • "Did you manage to steal away some time for our project?" "No worries, I've got it covered."
  • I hope to catch up with someone during the break and steal away to a quiet café.

Examples of “Steal Away” in Pop Culture

From lyrics to literature, our favorite idiom has made several appearances:

  • Steal Away is a song by Robbie Dupree that became a big hit in the 80s.
  • The novel The Time Traveler's Wife had a moment where a character tried to "steal away" from a situation.
  • In the movie Midnight in Paris, the protagonist often tries to steal away from the past.
  • The TV series Downton Abbey has scenes where characters steal away for secret rendezvous.
  • A song titled "Steal Away" by Etta James was released in the late 1960s.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say “Steal Away”

The idiom "steal away" has often been employed to depict quietly or discreetly leaving a place or situation. But did you know some other expressions and terms can communicate a similar sentiment?

For example:

  • Slip away
  • Sneak off
  • Escape
  • Disappear
  • Vanish

Whether you're an aspiring writer, a language enthusiast, or someone merely seeking alternative ways to express a quiet exit, this list is your treasure trove!

10 Frequently Asked Questions About “Steal Away”:

  • What is the literal meaning of "steal away"?

It means to leave a place or situation quietly or without being noticed.

  • Where did the term originate?

The exact origins are unclear, but it has been used in literary contexts since at least the 18th century, as seen in writings by figures like Benjamin Franklin.

  • Is "steal away" commonly used in everyday language?

Yes, it is still used, especially in literary or dramatic contexts, to denote a quiet or unnoticed departure.

  • Does the phrase have any musical connotations?

Yes! "Steal away" is also the title of several songs across different eras and genres.

  • Is it appropriate to use this idiom in formal writing?

While it's understood, it's best used in more poetic or narrative pieces rather than strict formal writing.

  • Can the term be used in a positive context?

Absolutely! For instance, a couple might "steal away" for a romantic moment alone.

  • How does this idiom differ from "run away"?

While both imply leaving, "steal away" often suggests a more subtle or unnoticed departure, while "run away" can imply haste or urgency.

  • Does the term have any relation to theft or stealing?

No, it's purely idiomatic. It doesn't imply any actual stealing or thievery.

  • Are there any modern pop culture references to "steal away"?

Yes, from songs to movies and TV shows, this idiom has found its way into various media.

  • Is the idiom used internationally?

While it's primarily an English expression, its meaning is understood in other cultures familiar with English idioms.

Final Thoughts About “Steal Away”

Idioms like "steal away" make languages rich and vibrant. They connect us to the past, reflect our cultures, and often bring a smile to our faces. So, the next time you want to "steal away," remember you're part of a grand linguistic tradition!

  • "Steal away" is an idiom that primarily means to leave discreetly or secretly.
  • The phrase has deep historical roots, with significant ties to African-American spiritual songs and the Underground Railroad.
  • Its use in literature and pop culture showcases its adaptability and relevance in various contexts.
  • Example sentences highlight the idiom's flexibility, fitting different perspectives and situations.
  • Popular culture, especially music and movies, has frequently incorporated this term, underlining its impact on modern expressions.

Understanding idioms like "steal away" enriches our language comprehension and provides depth to our expressions. It reminds us of the beauty and complexity of language and encourages us to explore further, not just to communicate but to connect deeply with our shared histories and emotions.

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