What does the idiom "go to any lengths" mean?

The expression go to any lengths 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 go to any lengths idiom.

Meaning of "go to any lengths"


The idiom ‘go to any lengths’ is an expression used to describe when someone is willing to take extreme measures in order to achieve a goal or complete an objective. It is a phrase that implies that one is willing to do whatever it takes, even if uncomfortable or inconvenient, in order to reach a desirable outcome. The phrase is usually used to describe someone as being determined, aggressive, or ambitious in pursuing something that they desire.


The idiom ‘go to any lengths’ has its origin in the mid-1700s and has been widely used since then. Originally, the phrase began as ‘go to any length’, however in more recent times, the ‘s’ has been added to emphasize the phrase. It is believed that the phrase comes from the Old English term ‘langen’ which means ‘length’. The expression is derived from the idea that a person will go as far as they need to in order to get what they want.


The idiom ‘go to any lengths’ is typically used in a positive light, to describe someone when they are ready to go to the extreme to pursue something. It might be used to describe actions that are beneficial for the person in pursuit, such as a student working hard for a good grade, or a businessperson striving to get their business successful. However, it can also be used in a negative context to describe someone’s obsessive behavior, such as when someone is consumed by trying to prove themselves better than others.

Example Sentences

  • He was willing to go to any lengths to get what he wanted.
  • She was determined to go to any lengths to be successful in business.
  • He was known to go to any lengths to prove that he was smarter than everyone else.
  • She was ready to go to any lengths to get a good grade on the test.

The meanings of the words in the "go to any lengths" 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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