kick the can down the road

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Attested as an activity of idle urban youths since the late 19th century.[1] Modern sense of "procrastinate" dates from the 1980s.


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kick the can down the road

  1. (idiomatic) To postpone a decision or action; to procrastinate.
    • 1983 April 10, Nesmith, Jeff; Alexander, Andrew, “Will End to MX Stalemate Provide Long-Term Solution?”, in The Post[2], volume l, number 15, West Palm Beach, FL, page A10:
      To continue haggling over points on which a consensus seems impossible, Lehman said, is to "just keep kicking the can down the road."
    • 1997 Dec. 13, F. Stephen Larrabee and Richard Sokolsky, "In a New World, NATO Must Retool Its Strategic Concept," New York Times (retrieved 12 Jan 2013):
      [R]eaching an alliance-wide consensus on them will be difficult. . . . The natural temptation is to cling to the status quo, tinker on the edges or kick the can down the road.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ “The City-Road Burglary”, in The Morning Post[1], issue 32841, London, 1877-09-29, page 3: “He was standing at his door about 20 minutes past twelve on the night in question, when he saw a party kicking a can down the road. There were six of them. He saw one of the young fellows get over the hoarding and fall over”