fly too close to the sun

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In reference to the Greek myth of Icarus, who fell into the sea and drowned after flying too close to the sun on wings made of wax and feathers, despite having been warned by his father, Daedalus, who gave him the wings.


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fly too close to the sun (third-person singular simple present flies too close to the sun, present participle flying too close to the sun, simple past flew too close to the sun, past participle flown too close to the sun)

  1. (idiomatic) To become overly ambitious or greedy; to overreach oneself; to reach for something unattainable or unachievable.
    • 1991 March 19, Thomas Boswell, “BO LEARNS DISAPPOINTMENT”, in The Washington Post:
      Did Jackson fly too close to the sun? Should he have followed the Royals' advice -- the Royals' pleading, really -- that he play only baseball?
    • 1996 March 3, Pamela Constable, “BACK TO YOU, GUILLERMO”, in The Washington Post:
      Descalzi's friends at Telemundo worry that he is taking on too much, accelerating too quickly. They know he can fly too close to the sun -- and plunge into self-destructive indulgence.
    • 1998 October 26, Steve Lopez, “To Be Young And Gay In Wyoming”, in Time:
      When powerful men fly too close to the sun, two things can happen: they modify their course, or they come crashing down.
    • 2009 June 24, Linda Basch, “More women in finance, a more sustainable economy”, in The Christian Science Monitor:
      Studies indicate that women are more comprehensive thinkers and less attracted to excessive risk than are their male peers. It seems we have reached a fairly broad consensus on the meltdown: Guys were the ones flying too close to the sun.
    • 2010 September 24, Val McDermid, “Val McDermid's top 10 Oxford novels”, in The Guardian:
      Although superficially I had nothing in common with his characters apart from studying at Oxford, I couldn't avoid all sorts of emotional identification with them. This is the quintessential novel of Oxford gilded youth flying too close to the sun.
    • 2015 May 9, James Andrew Miller, “Inside the Shocking, Abrupt Divorce of Bill Simmons and ESPN”, in Vanity Fair:
      In the end, one could say with minimal originality, but considerable accuracy, that Bill Simmons simply flew too close to the sun. He miscalculated how much value ESPN put on him and on his unique abilities and talents.