You might be using these idioms per diem. But most certainly, you have to question yourself how these idioms came into existence. Here’s a list of some commonly used Sports Idioms and their point of origin.

“Down to the wire”

"Down to the wire" - Sports Sayings

Origin: Horse Racing – A wire was used in a Horse Racing event at the finish line to denote the end of the race comes down to the wire.

What it means: denotes a situation whose outcome is not known until the very last minute.

“move the goalposts”

Origin: Football – The significance of a goalpost is to decide the fate of the game. Moving a goalpost on the field denotes bending of the rules according to one’s own wishes.

What it means: to change the rules in an event/situation by all unfair means.

“drop the gloves”

Origin: Hockey – Refers to the players throwing off their gloves to fight with bare fists.

What it means: denotes fistfights; to engage in a fight.

“get the ball rolling”

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Origin: Ball Games – In certain ball games like skittles, a ball is used to begin the game.

What it means: to make something happen; to begin an event.

“knock for six”

Origin: Cricket – hitting a six and putting the crowd in awe.

What it means: to surprise someone.

“lead with one’s chin”

Origin: Boxing – refers to the boxer leaving out his chin unprotected by his hands during the bout.

What it means: to take a risk; behaving without any caution.


“win by a nose”

close finish - win by the nose

Origin: Horse Racing – A victory so close that only the nose of the winning horse decided it.

What it means: to win by a very small difference.

“on the ropes”

Origin: Boxing – the act of the opponent being thrashed and made to fall on the ropes enclosing the boxing ring.

What it means: doing very badly and about to falter.

“saved by the bell”

Origin: Boxing – saving a loss during the bout just because of the bell.

What it means: escaping from a humiliating loss just at the brink of the moment elapsed time.


Origin: Basketball – A shot in which the player rises to basket, forcefully attacks it by slamming the ball in.

What it means: a forceful move against someone.

“sticky wicket”

Origin: Cricket – Bad playing conditions caused due to unpleasant weather.

What it means: a punishing or strenuous situation.

“sucker punch”

Origin: Boxing – an unexpected punch delivered by the boxer.

What it means: to hit someone with a hard blow.

“throw in the towel”


Origin: Boxing – an act of throwing the sponge or towel into the boxing ring by the boxer’s trainer to stop the fight.

What it means: to accept defeat.

“roll with the punches”


Origin: Boxing – a boxer moves his body away from the force of the blow to lessen the impact.

What it means: to get used to or adjust to the difficulty of the circumstances.

“push it over the goal line”

Origin: American Football – Only when the ball crosses the line, it is considered as a goal.

What it means: to complete the job.

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