take a leaf out of someone’s book

take a leaf out of someone’s book

Meaning

  • implement actionable advice
  • follow an example set by another person
  • imitate another person
  • emulate
  • copy

Example Sentences

  1. I couldn’t decide what to do after high school, but my dad makes great money welding, so I took a leaf out of his book and went to trade school instead of college.
  2. Some polymers were made by studying and taking a leaf from the books of many species of ants.
  3. If you listen closely, it’s easy to realize that modern vocalists took leaves from the books of classic singers such as Frank Sinatra.
  4. You need to take a leaf out of your boss’s book and be punctual about coming to the office on time.

Origin

The use of this expression can be traced back to the early 1800s when it was used by B. H. Malkin to describe his translation of Gil Blas. His usage was more literal, in that, he translated the literature by taking it directly from the pages of the original book. In its literal sense, to “take a leaf from someone’s book” means to plagiarize or tear pages from a book. 

To understand the idiom fully, you must understand its etymology. A “leaf” within a book, magazine, or other reading material refers to two pages. When you open a magazine to the middle, you will see many sheets of paper folded and stapled at the center. You are seeing the leaves, not just the individual pages.

“Page” comes from the Latin word “pagina”, meaning “leaf” or “sheet”. Further derivation has another meaning, which is “forming a row of vines to create a rectangle.”

Next time you take a leaf from someone’s book, keep in mind that you’re actually taking two pages, and what’s on the other side of the page matters too!

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