What does “as the crow flies” mean?

'As the crow flies' is a common phrase describing the shortest distance between two points in a straight line. Explore its meaning, origin, and modern usage.

Understanding ‘As the Crow Flies’

“As the crow flies” is a common idiomatic expression used to describe the shortest distance between two points in a straight line.

This phrase is often used in conversation to convey the idea of a direct and unobstructed path between two locations.

Definition and Meaning

The phrase “as the crow flies” means the distance between two points in a straight line, without any detours or obstacles.

It is often used to describe the shortest possible distance between two locations, even if it is not the most practical or convenient route.

For example, if someone asks how far it is from one city to another, and another person replies “it’s 50 miles as the crow flies,” they mean that the two cities are 50 miles apart in a straight line, without taking into account any curves in the road or other obstacles that might make the actual distance longer.

Origin and History

The origin of the phrase “as the crow flies” is uncertain, but it has been in use in the English language since at least the early 19th century.

The phrase is often attributed to Charles Dickens, who used it in his novel “Oliver Twist” in 1838.

In the book, he writes, “We cut over the fields at the back with him between us – straight as the crow flies – through hedge and ditch.”

Modern Usage

Today, the phrase “as the crow flies” is still commonly used in everyday conversation, particularly when discussing distances between two points.

It is also used in other contexts, such as navigation, where it can be helpful to know the straight-line distance between two locations.

Examples

  • She lives about 20 miles away from me, as the crow flies.
  • The airport is only 10 miles from here, as the crow flies, but it takes 30 minutes to drive there.
  • The hiking trail is 15 miles long as the crow flies, but it takes a full day to complete.

Are “as the crow flies” and “count your chickens before they hatch” both idiomatic expressions?

Yes, “as the crow flies” and “count your chickens before they hatch” are both idiomatic expressions.

While “as the crow flies” means the shortest distance between two points, “count your chickens before they hatch” warns against premature assumptions. Understanding “count your chickens” allows one to avoid possible disappointments and focus on the present moment.

Synonyms

  • In a straight line
  • Directly
  • Beeline

Overall, “as the crow flies” is a useful phrase to know when discussing distances between two points.

It can help to convey the idea of a straight-line distance, even if the actual route may be longer or more complicated.