What does the idiom "be out of practice" mean?

The expression be out of practice is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the be out of practice idiom.

Meaning of "be out of practice"


When someone is said to be 'out of practice', it means that they lack skill or experience in a particular activity, usually as a result of not having had the opportunity to perform that activity in a while. For example, someone might be said to be "out of practice" when it comes to playing a certain sport if they haven't played it in a while, or if someone hasn't worked in a particular field in a few years, they may be said to be "out of practice" in it.


The phrase “out of practice” has been in use since the late 1800s. It is believed to have originated from the medical term “out of practice”, which was used to describe a doctor who had not been actively engaged in the medical profession for some time. Over time, the phrase has come to be used to describe any person who has not been keeping up with any type of activity.


The phrase “out of practice” is typically used as an adjective in a sentence, as in the following examples: “He has been out of practice for several years.”; “She is out of practice with her music.”; “He is out of practice in his job.” It can also be used as a verb in some cases, such as in the phrase “to be out of practice”. This phrase is often used when talking about physical or mental skills that require regular upkeep and maintenance in order to remain proficient.

Example Sentences

  • "I haven't played tennis in years, so I'm really out of practice."
  • "After taking a break from her job, she found herself out of practice."
  • "She hasn't touched a piano in months, so she's out of practice."

The meanings of the words in the "be out of practice" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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