What does the idiom "touch and go" mean?

The phrase touch and go is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of touch and go.

Meaning of "touch and go"


The idiom 'touch and go' is used to mean something that is uncertain, or a situation in which the outcome could either turn out favorably or not. It implies that one doesn't have full control of the situation, or that one is not entirely sure if the outcome will be positive or negative. This phrase is used in a variety of contexts, most commonly when describing a situation where there is risk involved. The phrase is also used when referring to a situation that may seem easy at first, but as time passes and more elements come into play, the situation may become more complex and uncertain.


The phrase 'touch and go' dates back to the early 1800s and originated from the maritime term "touch and stay," which was used to describe the process of coming ashore, where a ship had to come in contact with the shore, or a pier, and then immediately depart. This phrase was later used by pilots in the early 20th century and then became widely used in everyday language. The phrase is thought to have evolved from the British phrase "touch and go, or nothing," which was used in reference to a situation where one has to take a risk or it will end with nothing.


The phrase 'touch and go' is usually used to describe a situation that is uncertain and could either turn out positively or not. It can also be used to describe a situation in which one is taking a risk, and while the outcome is not guaranteed, there is a chance it could be successful. The phrase is also sometimes used to describe a situation that was initially expected to be easy, but as time passes and more elements come into play, the situation could potentially become more complex and uncertain. This phrase is commonly used in both spoken and written English.

Example Sentences

  • It was a touch and go situation when they first started the business, but they eventually managed to make it a success.
  • The negotiation was a bit of a touch and go situation, but in the end, they managed to reach an agreement.
  • Investing in the stock market can be a touch and go experience, as you never know how the stock prices will turn out.

The meanings of the words in the "touch and go" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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