Understanding the Idiom: "edge out" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The idiom “edge out” implies that someone or something has gained a slight advantage over others through skill, strategy, or luck. It suggests that the victory was not easy or obvious but required effort and determination. The phrase can also convey a sense of competition and rivalry between individuals or groups.

To understand the full meaning of “edge out”, it is important to consider its context and connotations. For example, in sports, it may refer to winning a game by a narrow margin or overtaking an opponent at the last moment. In business, it may refer to securing a contract or deal ahead of competitors through clever negotiation tactics.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “edge out”

The idiom “edge out” has been used in the English language for many years, but its origins are not clear. However, it is believed to have originated from a physical action of edging or pushing something out of the way. Over time, this phrase has evolved into a figurative meaning that refers to someone or something being pushed aside or replaced.

Throughout history, there have been many instances where individuals or groups have been edged out of positions of power or influence. For example, during the Industrial Revolution in England, traditional craftsmen were edged out by new machines and factory workers. Similarly, in politics and business, there are often cases where one person edges another out for a promotion or position.

The use of this idiom has become more common in modern times as competition and ambition continue to drive people towards success. It is often used in professional settings such as job interviews and performance evaluations when discussing career advancement opportunities.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “edge out”

When it comes to language, idioms can be tricky to understand. However, once you’ve got a handle on them, they can add a lot of color and nuance to your speech or writing. One such idiom is “edge out”. This phrase has several variations in usage that are worth exploring.

One common way to use “edge out” is when talking about competition. If two people or groups are competing for something, one might eventually edge the other out – meaning they’ll come out ahead and win whatever prize was at stake. Another variation of this usage involves using “edged” as an adjective: if someone says they just barely edged their opponent out, it means the competition was very close but they managed to eke out a victory.

Another way you might hear “edge out” used is in reference to social situations. For example, if someone feels like they’re being excluded from a group or conversation, they might say that others are trying to edge them out. Similarly, if someone is trying to gain more influence within a group or organization, they may try to edge others out by making themselves more visible or taking credit for accomplishments.

Finally, there’s also an idiomatic phrasal verb that uses “out”: edge someone/something/someplace/somewhere out. This construction means essentially the same thing as just saying “edge out”, but with some added specificity – for example, you could say that you edged your competitor’s product line out of the market by offering better prices and features.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “edge out”


There are several synonyms that can be used in place of “edge out”. These include:

  • Push aside
  • Oust
  • Supplant
  • Replace
  • Displace

Each of these words carries a slightly different connotation, but they all convey the idea of someone or something being replaced or removed from a position.


On the other hand, there are also antonyms that represent the opposite meaning of “edge out”. These include:

  • Ingratiate oneself with
  • Court favor with
  • Maintain good relations with
  • Avoid conflict with

These words suggest an effort to maintain positive relationships and avoid confrontation rather than actively seeking to remove someone from their position.

Cultural Insights

The use and interpretation of idioms can vary greatly across cultures. In some cultures, direct confrontation may be seen as inappropriate or impolite, while in others it may be expected. As such, the use of an idiom like “edge out” may carry different implications depending on where it is used. For example, in American culture where competition is often encouraged and rewarded, using this idiom may not carry negative connotations. However, in some Asian cultures where harmony and avoiding conflict is highly valued, using this idiom may be seen as aggressive or confrontational.

Synonyms Antonyms Cultural Insights
Push aside Ingratiate oneself with American culture values competition while some Asian cultures value harmony.
Oust Court favor with
Supplant Maintain good relations with
Replace Avoid conflict with

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “edge out”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

In this exercise, you will be given a sentence with a blank space. Your task is to fill in the blank with an appropriate form of “edge out”.

  • The new company was able to ________ its competitors by offering better prices.
  • Despite her hard work, she was eventually ________ by someone who had more experience.
  • The team worked hard to ________ their opponents and secure their spot in the playoffs.

Exercise 2: Identify Contextual Meaning

In this exercise, you will be given a sentence containing “edge out”. Your task is to identify the contextual meaning of the idiom based on how it is used in that particular sentence.

  • The small business was able to edge out its larger competitors by providing exceptional customer service.
  • After years of struggling, he finally edged out his rival and became CEO of the company.
  • The two candidates were neck-and-neck throughout most of the race, but one eventually edged out the other at the finish line.

Exercise 3: Create Your Own Sentences

In this exercise, you will create your own sentences using “edge out” in context. This will allow you to practice using this idiom correctly and creatively.

  • Create three unique sentences that use “edge out” appropriately within them. Share these sentences with a partner or group for feedback on accuracy and creativity.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “edge out”

Avoiding Literal Interpretations

One mistake that people often make when using idioms is interpreting them too literally. The idiom “edge out” does not actually refer to physically pushing someone or something off a ledge. Instead, it means to gradually gain an advantage over someone or something until they are no longer able to compete effectively. To avoid confusion, it is important to understand the figurative meaning of the idiom and use it appropriately in context.

Using Proper Verb Tense

Another common mistake when using “edge out” is incorrect verb tense usage. The correct form of this phrasal verb depends on the subject and context of the sentence. For example, if you want to say that your company has been slowly gaining market share over its competitors, you would say “We have been edging out our competition.” However, if you want to describe a past event where your company gained an advantage over a competitor, you would say “We edged them out last year.” It is important to pay attention to verb tense when using this idiom so as not to confuse your audience.

Mistake Correction
Saying “edging off” instead of “edging out” The correct phrase is “edging out”.
Taking the idiom too literally Understand the figurative meaning and use it appropriately in context.
Using incorrect verb tense Pay attention to the subject and context of the sentence when using “edge out”.
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