Meaning | Synonyms
- temporary help (often financial)
- the aid of some kind through a difficult time
- an allowance until stock or funds are replenished
- support through lean times
- supply what is needed for a certain amount of time
This is the idiomatic expression meaning to help someone through a temporarily difficult period of time, usually by lending money, but it can be food or assistance in some way too. More recently, we have made it into a transitive verb phrase as tide one over, as in this example: “These snacks will tide me over until lunch.”
- When I was at university, my mother always sent me food parcels to tide me over until my next grant cheque came.
- Let me lend you some money to tide you over until payday.
- The bank agreed to a small loan to tide the company over until the end of the year.
- Stanley sent his granddaughter some money to tide her over until she found a new job.
- We spent the morning fixing the roof. Hopefully, it will tide us over until we can get a builder in.
- I’ve made you a sandwich to tide you over until you get a proper meal later.
- Chris picked up a few essentials at the corner shop to tide him over until he did a big shop.
The original ‘tiding over’ was a seafaring term and originates eventually from ‘tide’ being synonymous with ‘time’ and the meaning of this phrase has changed slightly over the years.
British Captain John Smith has the first known recording of this idiom in his book A Sea Grammar (1627 C.E.):
“To Tide ouer to a place, is to goe ouer with the Tide of ebbe or flood, and stop the contrary by anchoring till the next Tide.”
At this time, tiding over literally meant using the tide to move the ship to a new location when there was no wind to push its sails. This took on the more figurative sense of using something to carry you through a tough time or past obstacles by the early 19th century.
It was firmly established at least by 1821 when we find it used this way in the Earl of Dudley’s Letters to the Bishop of Llandaff:
“I wish we may be able to tide over this difficulty.”