Understanding the Idiom: "come of age" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The idiom “come of age” is a common expression used in English language to describe the process of maturing or reaching adulthood. It is often used to refer to individuals who have reached a certain level of maturity, independence, or responsibility. This idiom can be found in various contexts such as literature, movies, music, and everyday conversations.

The Origin of the Idiom

The origin of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times when people celebrated their coming-of-age milestones with special ceremonies and rituals. In some cultures, these events were marked by specific rites that symbolized the transition from childhood to adulthood. Over time, this concept has evolved into a more general idea that encompasses personal growth and development.

Usage and Examples

In modern usage, “coming of age” refers to any significant event or experience that marks a person’s transition into adulthood. This could include getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school or college, starting a career or family, or overcoming personal challenges.

For example:

– After years of hard work and dedication, John finally came of age as an artist when his paintings were featured in a prestigious gallery.

– The novel tells the story of a young woman who comes of age during World War II and learns valuable lessons about love and loss.

– When Sarah turned 18 years old she felt like she had come of age because she was legally allowed to vote for the first time.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “come of age”

The idiom “come of age” is a commonly used phrase in the English language that refers to a person reaching maturity or adulthood. The origins of this expression can be traced back to ancient civilizations where certain rituals were performed to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. In many cultures, this was celebrated with elaborate ceremonies and rites of passage.

Throughout history, societies have placed great importance on the concept of coming of age. This was particularly true during medieval times when young men were expected to prove their worth by participating in battles and tournaments. Similarly, young women were expected to demonstrate their skills in areas such as cooking, sewing, and child-rearing.

As time progressed, the meaning behind “coming of age” evolved beyond just physical maturity. It became associated with achieving independence and taking on responsibilities such as voting, driving, and working full-time jobs. Today, it is still used widely in everyday conversation to describe someone who has reached an important milestone in their life.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “come of age”

One common usage of the idiom “come of age” is to refer to a person who has reached a certain level of independence or responsibility. For example, when a young person graduates from college and starts working full-time, they are said to have come of age. Similarly, when someone takes on new responsibilities at work or home, they may be said to have come of age.

Another variation of this idiom is “coming into one’s own”. This phrase refers to the process by which a person discovers their true identity or potential. It can also refer to achieving success or recognition after struggling for some time. For instance, an artist who finally gets their big break after years of hard work may be said to have come into their own.

In some contexts, the idiom “come full circle” can also be used interchangeably with “come of age”. This phrase describes a situation where something returns back to its original state after going through a cycle or journey. For example, if someone moves away from their hometown but eventually returns many years later with newfound wisdom and experience, they may be said to have come full circle.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “come of age”


There are several different phrases that can be used interchangeably with “come of age.” Some examples include:

– Reach maturity

– Attain majority

– Come into one’s own

– Matured into adulthood

– Achieve independence

Each of these phrases conveys a similar idea to “come of age,” but may have slightly different connotations depending on the context in which they are used.


On the other hand, there are also several antonyms or opposite phrases that can be used to contrast with “come of age.” These include:

– Remain immature

– Stay dependent

– Fail to grow up

– Refuse to take responsibility

These phrases highlight the negative consequences that can arise when someone fails to reach their full potential or take ownership over their life.

Cultural Insights
In many cultures around the world, coming of age is celebrated as a rite of passage. This often involves ceremonies or rituals designed to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood.
For example, in Japan there is a tradition known as Seijin no Hi (Coming-of-Age Day) where young adults who have turned 20 in the past year dress up in traditional clothing and attend a ceremony at their local government office.
In some Native American cultures, young men undergo a vision quest to gain spiritual insight and prove their worthiness as warriors.

Understanding the synonyms, antonyms, and cultural insights associated with “come of age” can help us better appreciate its significance in different contexts. Whether we are celebrating our own coming-of-age or witnessing someone else’s journey to maturity, this idiom reminds us of the importance of taking responsibility for our lives and striving towards personal growth.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “come of age”

Exercise 1: Vocabulary Building

To fully grasp the meaning of “come of age”, it’s important to have a strong vocabulary. Start by creating a list of synonyms for the words “come” and “age”. This will help you better understand how these words work together in the context of this idiom.

Exercise 2: Grammar Practice

The correct usage of verb tenses is crucial when using idioms like “come of age”. Practice using different verb tenses with this idiom in sentences until you feel comfortable with its proper usage.

Exercise 3: Real-Life Scenarios

Create real-life scenarios where you would use the phrase “come of age”. This exercise will help you apply what you’ve learned about this idiom in practical situations.


Exercise Description
Vocabulary Building Create a list of synonyms for ‘come’ and ‘age’
Grammar Practice Practice using different verb tenses with ‘come of age’
Real-Life Scenarios Create real-life scenarios where ‘come of age’ would be used.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “come of age”

When using idioms, it’s important to understand their meaning and usage. The idiom “come of age” is no exception. This phrase is often used to describe a person or thing that has reached maturity or has become fully developed.

However, there are some common mistakes that people make when using this idiom. One mistake is using it in the wrong context. For example, saying “I came of age when I turned 18” would be incorrect because this idiom refers to something becoming mature or fully developed, not a person reaching a certain age.

Another mistake is using the wrong tense. The correct form of the idiom depends on whether you’re referring to something that has already happened or something that will happen in the future. For example, if you’re talking about someone who has already become mature, you would say “he came of age.” But if you’re talking about someone who will become mature in the future, you would say “he will come of age.”

A third mistake is overusing the idiom. While it can be a useful phrase in certain contexts, using it too frequently can make your writing sound repetitive and unoriginal.

To avoid these common mistakes when using the idiom “come of age,” make sure you understand its meaning and usage, use it only when appropriate and necessary, and pay attention to verb tense.

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