What does “bend over backwards” mean?

Discover the fascinating origins of the idiom 'Bend Over Backwards' and its figurative usage of going above and beyond to help or please someone. Explore its literal meaning, synonyms, and more!

Definition and Origins

Bend over backwards is an idiom that means to try very hard to help or please someone, often by doing something that is difficult or inconvenient.

Another variation of this idiom is lean over backwards.

It is a common English expression that is used in both formal and informal contexts.

Literal Meaning

The literal meaning of the idiom bend over backwards is to physically bend one’s body backwards.

This is a difficult and uncomfortable position that requires a lot of effort and flexibility.

Figurative Usage

The figurative usage of the idiom bend over backwards is to go out of one’s way to help or please someone.

This can involve doing something that is difficult, inconvenient, or even impossible.

Can “Around the bend” and “bend over backwards” be used in similar context?

The meaning of “around the bend” typically refers to someone being insane or mentally unstable.

On the other hand, “bend over backwards” means to make a great effort or go to great lengths to help or please someone.

Although both expressions involve the word “bend,” they are used in completely different contexts and have distinct meanings.

Etymology

According to Grammar Monster, the idiom bend over backwards originated from gymnastics.

The term was used as early as 920 CE to compare the athletic act of back bending with an expenditure of effort.

The phrase has been used across many cultures for over 1,000 years.

Examples

  • She bent over backwards to make sure that the customer was satisfied with their purchase.
  • He leaned over backwards to help his friend move into their new apartment.
  • The manager of the hotel bent over backwards to accommodate the needs of the guests.

Synonyms

  • Go out of one’s way
  • Do everything possible
  • Spare no effort

In summary, the idiom bend over backwards is a common English expression that means to try very hard to help or please someone.

It has a literal meaning that refers to physically bending backwards and a figurative meaning that involves going out of one’s way to help or please someone.

The origin of the idiom is from gymnastics, and it has been used across many cultures for over 1,000 years.