learn the ropes

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Of nautical origin. The phrase "he knows the ropes" written on a seaman's discharge meant that he was inexperienced and only familiar with a ship's principal ropes.

  • 1981, Snelling, Charles, Nomenclature of Ships, Naval Sea Systems Command:


learn the ropes

  1. To learn the basics or master introductory knowledge.
    Work slowly and cautiously until you have learned the ropes.

Related terms[edit]

  • know the ropes
  • show one the ropes
  • teach one the ropes


See also[edit]