Where You Are Coming From: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 17, 2023

The idiom "where you're coming from" refers to understanding another person's perspective, feelings, or motivations. Rather than referring to a physical location, this idiom focuses on mental or emotional states. It's often used when acknowledging someone's viewpoint or justifying their actions or reactions, even if you may not necessarily agree with them.

In short:

  • "Where you're coming from" is about grasping the reasoning, feelings, or experiences that shape someone's point of view.
  • The idiom encourages empathy, openness, and respectful communication.

What Does "Where You're Coming From" Mean?

The phrase "where you're coming from" expresses the understanding or acknowledgment of another's perspective or emotions. It communicates empathy and respect for differing viewpoints or experiences.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • "Where you're coming from" signifies the recognition of another person's perspective, beliefs, or feelings.
  • You can use it when acknowledging someone's viewpoint, even if you don't necessarily agree with it.
  • Some similar expressions to "where you're coming from" include "I see your point," "I understand your perspective," and "I get what you're saying."

Where Does "Where You're Coming From" Come From?

This phrase's origin is unclear, but it may have emerged in American English in the second half of the 20th century. Some sources suggest that the phrase is a shortened version of the question “Where are you coming from?” which can mean either one’s geographical origin or one’s reason for doing something.

Historical Example

"Seriously, I think I know where you’re coming from, and I’d like to share that space."

- a comic strip by G.B. Trudeau, 1980

The earliest citation of the phrase in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1980, in a comic strip by G.B. Trudeau. The phrase has since become widely used in English-speaking countries and cultures, especially in informal speech and writing.

10 Examples of "Where You Are Coming From" in Sentences

Here are some examples of the idiom in use:

  • I know where you are coming from. I also like to explore every nook and cranny of a new place.
  • Our boss seemed more sympathetic when he said he understood where we were coming from with our complaints.
  • After you decided to throw in the towel, I could understand where you were coming from.
  • Where you are coming from matters to me, even if we don't agree.
  • You warned me not to get my hopes up, and after explaining your reasoning, I could see where you were coming from.
  • Even in disagreements, they could always see where each other was coming from.
  • On a lighter note, your fondness for comedy helps me understand where you are coming from with your unique sense of humor.
  • She felt understood when her friend acknowledged that she knew where she was coming from.
  • When you feel misunderstood, expressing where you are coming from can help others see your point of view.
  • Being open about your struggles provides me with a deeper understanding of where you are coming from.

Examples of "Where You're Coming From" in Pop Culture

"Where you're coming from" is often used in day-to-day conversations and dialogues in movies, TV shows, books, and music due to its relatability and universal application.

Here are a few examples:

  • In the song "Where You're Coming From" by Matt and Kim, the phrase is used to address understanding and empathy in a relationship.
  • A quote from the 2013 book The Path of Yoga by Osho International Foundation: "If you don't know where you are coming from and where you are going, then what is the hurry?"
  • A quote from the book Marriage is Beautiful by Kalu Igwe Kalu: "Even if you differ on some issues, each should seek to understand where the other person is coming from, where you are coming from, and where two of you wish to go to."
  • "Authors Who Get Where You're Coming From" is the title of an episode of Anne Bogel's podcast series What Should I Read Next?

Other Ways to Say "Where You're Coming From"

While "where you're coming from" is commonly used, other English phrases can communicate a similar meaning.

Here are a few examples:

  • I see your point
  • I hear you
  • I feel you
  • I understand your perspective
  • I get what you're saying
  • I see what you mean
  • I understand your feelings

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Where You're Coming From":

  • What does "where you're coming from" mean?

This idiom refers to the understanding or acknowledgement of another's perspective, feelings, or motivations.

  • What is the origin of the idiom "where you're coming from"?

The exact origin is unclear, but it's believed to have arisen in the mid-20th century as a metaphorical expansion of understanding someone's background or origin.

  • How can I use "where you're coming from" in a sentence?

You can use "where you're coming from" when acknowledging someone's viewpoint or feelings, like "You said that something is better than nothing. I don’t agree, but I see where you're coming from."

  • Is "where you're coming from" used only in informal contexts?

While it's commonly used in informal conversation, "where you're coming from" can also be used in more formal discussions where understanding or acknowledging another's perspective is essential.

  • Are there other phrases similar to "where you're coming from"?

Yes, similar phrases include "I see your point," "I understand your perspective," and "I get what you're saying."

  • Does the phrase imply agreement?

No, "where you're coming from" expresses understanding of a perspective or viewpoint, but not necessarily agreement with it.

  • Is using "where you're coming from" in formal writing appropriate?

While it's more commonly used in conversational English, it can be used in formal writing if it suits the context and maintains clarity.

  • Does "where you're coming from" refer to physical locations?

Not in the idiomatic sense. "Where you're coming from" refers to understanding a person's perspective, feelings, or motivations, not their geographic origin.

  • Can "where you're coming from" be used in a professional context?

Yes, it can be used in professional discussions or meetings to convey understanding of a colleague's or client's viewpoint.

  • Can "where you're coming from" enhance communication?

Yes, using "where you're coming from" can enhance communication by showing that you value and respect another's perspective, fostering more open and respectful dialogue.

Final Thoughts About "Where You're Coming From"

Effective communication is paramount; sometimes, understanding "where you're coming from" is key. Whether it's during conflict resolution, empathizing with a friend's situation, or trying to understand a foreign concept, this idiom is often crucial in establishing deeper connections and fostering mutual respect.

Here's a quick summary:

  • "Where you're coming from" signifies understanding and acknowledging another person's perspective or situation, even if it differs from one's own.
  • The idiom is prevalent in a variety of contexts, both formal and informal.
  • You can use it to foster better personal relationships, manage conflicts, or enhance professional communications.
  • Similar expressions include "see eye to eye," "put oneself in someone else's shoes," and "on the same page."

Understanding the idiom "where you're coming from" is critical to effective communication, paving the way for meaningful discussions and stronger relationships. So don't hesitate to use this empathetic expression!

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