know the ropes

know the ropes


  • to know all the ways and means to get something done
  • to understand the nuances of how something should be done
  • the acquaintance of all possible means is said to know the ropes

Example Sentences

  1. She has been working here for 30 years and knows the ropes to getting anything done.
  2. When the captain arrived at dock he worked so smoothly that it was clear he knows the ropes. The loading in the ship was suddenly completed in no time.
  3. He knows the ropes of the circus since he has been here his entire life.

It is not 100% clear if the origin comes from the sea, where a sailor is expected to ‘know the ropes’, literally or if the origination is from the world of theatre where ropes bring the curtains up and down. In the literary word, the expression was first used in 1840 by Richard Dana Jr. He used in the context of the sea but in the sense of someone being knowledgeable. The title of the book was ‘Two years before the mast’. Ten years later the same phrase was used by J. Timon which cited a theatrical reference in his work called ‘Opera Goer’.

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