learn the ropes


learn the ropes


  • to learn the tricks in order to do something well.
  • to be well versed in a craft.
  • refers to the process of learning or mastering the fundamental aspects of a particular task, job, or activity.
  • the act of becoming accustomed to the methods, protocols, or routines associated with a new job, role, or environment.
  • adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings, expectations, or dynamics.
  • gaining insight into the intricacies or workings of a system, organization, or process.
  • In a literal sense, it can refer to physically handling or maneuvering ropes as part of vocational training, particularly in maritime or rigging contexts.

Example Sentences

  1. It’s important for you to learn the ropes and understand your father’s business well before taking it over.
  2. The manager had to learn the ropes before being given responsibility for all the teams.
  3. I learned the ropes before stepping into politics, so taking me down won’t be so easy.
  4. Could you please learn the ropes before commenting on others’ work?
  5. My father believed that to be successful, one must spend considerable time learning the ropes.
  6. She spent a considerable amount of time learning the ropes, but I still don’t see much improvement.
  7. As a professional, you must continually learn the ropes to excel in your career.
  8. Sarah quickly learned the ropes of customer service in her first week on the job.
  9. Mark learned the ropes of office etiquette, quickly familiarizing himself with meetings and emails.
  10. Maria learned the ropes of project management, understanding its intricacies.
  11. Alex learned the ropes of navigating a new city, getting used to public transportation.
  12. During his apprenticeship, Jake learned the ropes of maritime craftsmanship, mastering knot tying and rigging.


There are several different theories behind the origin of the idiom “learn the ropes.”

Nautical Origin

Most commonly, the phrase “learn the ropes” is explained to have its roots in the nautical world and can be traced back to the mid-1800s, where sailors had to master the complicated art of manipulating the ropes that controlled the sails on sailing ships. Before the invention of steam engines or fossil fuel-powered ships, understanding the various knots and rigging was essential for navigating the vessel effectively. This process of acquiring knowledge and skill was colloquially termed “learning the ropes.”

Rope Tricks Origin

Another story behind this idiom comes from nomads who did rope tricks and traveled throughout the country in order to make a living. Rope tricks weren’t easy, and one would have to know the nuances as well as practice them thoroughly so that the performance was flawless and without any accidents. The phrase hence stuck on for anything that a person could perfect by learning and practicing.

Theatrical Origin

According to another belief, the idiom might actually come from the theater world, where ropes are used to lift things like scenery on stage.

It is also believed that “know the ropes” originated before “learn the ropes” in the maritime world. Both phrases are quite similar in their meaning and origin.

See also: know the ropes

Share your opinions1 Opinion

Seems like most other reference sources pin the origin of “learn the ropes” to sailing ships.

‒ Tom Sadowski October 15, 2019

What's on your mind?