move the goalposts

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

A modern goal used in association football (soccer). The term move the goalposts derives from this game.

A metaphor of British origin derived from association football (soccer),[1] from the idea that it is difficult for a player to kick the ball into the goal if it is moved.

Pronunciation[edit]

Verb[edit]

move the goalposts (third-person singular simple present moves the goalposts, present participle moving the goalposts, simple past and past participle moved the goalposts)

  1. (idiomatic) To alter the terms of an agreement or an agreed target, or the rules of a negotiation while it is ongoing, especially in an unfair way.
    This is a Government that meets its economic targets and does not move the goalposts.
    We were given a moving date, and an exchange date, but the buyers kept moving the goalposts and giving us a later date.

Alternative forms[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ William Safire (28 October 1990), “On language; moving the goalposts”, in The New York Times[1], archived from the original on 9 September 2017.

Further reading[edit]