lose ground


lose ground (idiom)
/luːz ɡraʊnd/


  • to lose an advantage in a competition or struggle.
  • to fail to maintain a previously achieved level of success or progress.
  • to yield one’s position to an opponent or rival.
  • to become less successful or effective in a particular area.
  • to retreat or give way in the face of opposition or difficulty.

Example Sentences

  1. The company began to lose ground to its competitors after the new product launch.
  2. The team lost ground in the second half of the game due to their poor defense.
  3. She felt she was losing ground in the debate as her opponent presented stronger arguments.
  4. The political party has been losing ground among young voters.
  5. The technology firm lost ground when it failed to innovate quickly enough.

Origin and History

The idiom “lose ground” has a rich history rooted primarily in military terminology but has evolved to find relevance in many aspects of modern life. Its ability to convey the idea of losing an advantage or retreating in various contexts ensures its continued usage and understanding.

Military Roots

The most widely accepted theory traces the phrase back to military terminology. During medieval times, the success of an army was often measured by its ability to gain or hold onto territory. When an army was forced to retreat or give up land to the enemy, it was said to have “lost ground.” This concept was literal, as losing ground meant losing strategic positions that could decide the outcome of a conflict. Over time, the phrase evolved from its military origins to be used metaphorically in various non-military contexts, such as politics, business, and sports.

Evolution into Modern Usage

By the 18th and 19th centuries, “lose ground” had started to appear in broader contexts. For instance, in the world of politics, a politician might lose ground in the polls due to a scandal or controversial decision. Similarly, a company might lose ground to its competitors if it fails to innovate or meet market demands. The idiom’s versatility has allowed it to remain relevant and widely understood across different domains and over several generations.

Cultural and Linguistic Spread

As English became more globally dominant, many idioms, including “lose ground,” spread to other languages and cultures. This proliferation was aided by the British Empire’s extensive reach and later by American cultural influence. Consequently, “lose ground” is now a common expression in various English-speaking countries and has equivalents in other languages as well.

Alternative Theories

While the military origin is the most recognized, some suggest alternative roots. One such theory links the phrase to agricultural practices, where losing ground could mean soil erosion or the loss of fertile land, which would have been critical to farming communities. This theory, however, is less documented and remains speculative compared to the well-documented military origin.


  1. fall behind
  2. slip back
  3. regress

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