out of the woods


out of the woods (idiom)
/aʊt əv ðə wʊdz/


  • no longer in danger or difficulty.
  • in a safer or more stable condition after a difficult period.
  • recovering from a challenging or threatening situation.

Note: This expression is commonly used in conjunction with “not” to highlight how precarious the situation remains.

Example Sentences

  1. After months of uncertainty, the company is finally out of the woods and back on track.
  2. The patient was critically ill, but the doctors now believe he is out of the woods.
  3. Economists say the recession is over, but we’re not out of the woods
  4. Although the weather has improved, we’re not out of the woods until the flooding subsides.
  5. The team is playing better now, but with so many games left, they’re not out of the woods.

Origin and History

The idiom likely originated in North America during the early 19th century. Around 1800, the vast, dense forests of America posed significant dangers, leading to the first documented use of the phrase. Wild animals, harsh weather, and mishaps posed threats to travelers, settlers, and hunters who ventured into the woods. Being “out of the woods” meant they had successfully navigated these perils and reached safety.

Early Usage

One of the earliest recorded uses of the idiom comes from Abigail Adams, who used it in a letter dated November 13, 1800. This historical reference indicates that by the end of the 18th century, the expression had become part of the American vernacular. Benjamin Franklin’s papers also contain mentions of this phrase, further cementing its American roots.

Theories of Origin

Hunting Terminology

One theory posits that the phrase originated from hunting jargon. Hunters tracking game in the woods would declare themselves “out of the woods” once they had successfully captured their prey and left the wooded area, signifying that they were safe and their hunt was successful.

Navigational Challenges

Another plausible source is the navigational challenges faced by early American settlers and travelers. Dense forests were difficult to traverse, and emerging from them meant overcoming significant obstacles. Thus, “out of the woods” naturally became synonymous with overcoming difficulties.

Literary and Cultural Usage

Various literary works have used the idiom metaphorically to describe overcoming difficulties, whether they are financial, health-related, or personal. Writings from the 19th century, for instance, highlight its deep-rooted place in the English language.

Evolution and Modern Use

As time went by, the idiom evolved from its literal meaning of emerging from a forest to a more figurative usage. Today, it broadly applies to any situation where someone has moved past a difficult phase and is now in a safer or better position.

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