Know the Ropes (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Know the Ropes"?

The term "know the ropes" means to understand the details.
Know the Ropes (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • Victor knows the ropes. He's worked here for 15 years.
  • He's been installing bathrooms for years. I think he knows the ropes around a sink.
  • I think you'll enjoy this game once you know the ropes.
"Know the ropes" originates from the days of sailing ships when sailors were required to understand which ropes to operate and how to tie various knots. It came into common use as a metaphor for "to understand the details" as early as the 1840s (evidence).

Competing Theory

The term "know the ropes" originates from the theatre where stagehands were required to know which ropes to pull to raise curtains and move stage scenery.

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