tall order

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tall ((originally British slang) big, large)[1] + order.[2]



tall order (plural tall orders) (comparative taller order, superlative tallest order)

  1. (originally US, idiomatic) A big job; a difficult challenge.
    Synonym: big ask
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:easy thing
    • 1871, W. W. Hall, “Are Vegetable Foods Difficult to Digest?”, in Health by Good Living, New York, N.Y.: Published by Hurd and Houghton [], →OCLC, footnote, page 92:
      [W]e must come, consequently, to the impressive conclusion that to live on potatoes alone [], a man must eat at least 30 lbs. of potato a day—which would be rather a tall order, even for an Irishman.
    • 1911 October, E[dward] Phillips Oppenheim, “The Night Train from Vienna”, in Havoc, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, and Company, →OCLC, page 26:
      Guess they'd find it a pretty tall order trying to interfere with an American citizen.
    • 1947 November, ““Dear Chairman Weichel”: An Open Letter to Chairman Weichel of the House Committee on the Merchant Marine Suggesting a Program for the Next Session of Congress”, in Murray Morse, editor, The Log, volume 42, number 12, Los Angeles, Calif.: Miller Freeman Publications, page 33, column 2:
      We suggest that your committee assume the responsibility for establishing a definite long range construction program for the American Merchant Marine. This is a tall order but one of extreme urgency. An entire indusry is now suspended in the balance between war and peace, and upon you and your committee depends which way the scales will tip.
    • 1951 October, R. S. McNaught, “Lines of Approach”, in Railway Magazine, page 705:
      The present writer was once asked to name what he considered to be "the most typically English railway approach to a town": a somewhat tall order, especially as such matters will always be, in the last resort, of individual opinion. But the unhesitating answer to this question (which has not been altered after many years of extended travel throughout England) was "Sudbury, in Suffolk."
    • 2002, Jack H. Grossman, J. Robert Parkinson, “Introduction”, in Becoming a Successful Manager: How to Make a Smooth Transition from Managing Yourself to Managing Others, Contemporary Books, →DOI, →ISBN, page 2:
      These are tall orders, but they are, in part, the responsibilities you assumed when you donned the mantle of manager. When you accepted this position, your implied promise, assuming you want to be the best leader you can be, was to be an effective teacher, a sensitive counselor, and a master gardener.
    • 2009 February 25, Tyler Hamilton, “50,000 green jobs ‘a tall order’”, in Toronto Star[1], Toronto, Ont., archived from the original on 11 August 2016:
      Frank Macedo, an electrical engineering consultant who used to oversee transmission planning at the former Ontario Hydro, said creating that many jobs in three years is "a tall order." As it is, utilities such as Hydro One and Ontario Power Generation are already struggling to replace thousands of boomer-age employees who will be retiring over the next few years.
    • 2012, David Wesley Ofumbi, “The Challenge of Local Communities in East Africa”, in Identity and Transformation: The Significance of African Christianity in Community Transformation, U.S.A.: Xulon Press, →ISBN, page 63:
      It is estimated that by 2013, Uganda alone will have over 10 million unemployed youths []. Overall, at least 500,000 new jobs are needed every year to meet the current demand. [] These figures are tall orders that might eventually spell doom for the region unless the stakeholders provide more tangible solutions immediately.
    • 2015 April, Kate Meader, Flirting with Fire, 1st paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Pocket Books, →ISBN, page 366:
      In the past six weeks, she had turned Luke Almeida into Chicago's Sexiest Fireman, his sister into America's Favorite Firefighter, and had recovered from a cheating ex who was about to have octuplet walruses with a nurse. Meet the queen of tall orders.
    • 2023 May 6, James Poniewozik, “Charles III Was Crowned King. But Can He Ever Be the Star?”, in The New York Times[2]:
      This was a tall order. Charles has never been the star of his own life. He’s been the king for months now; he’s been an international figure for decades. But much of his story has been his mother’s, his wives’, his children’s.



Further reading[edit]