wide of the mark

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From archery and sports jargon.[1][2] Sometimes corrupted to wide(ly) off the mark (as in far off the mark, way off base).


Archery targets with arrows in them. Some of the arrows are wide of the mark (sense 1).


wide of the mark

  1. Of a projectile: missing the target.
  2. (idiomatic) (Very) inaccurate.
    Well, I suppose you could say the weatherman was wide of the mark again then!
    • 1726, John Stevens, “Pédro”, in A New Dictionary, Spanish and English, and English and Spanish, Much More Copious than Any Other hitherto Extant. Laying down the True Etymology of Words, with Their Various Significations; Terms of Arts and Sciences, Proper Names of Men and Women, Surnames of Families, Titles of Honour, the Geography of Spain and the West Indies, and Principal Plants Growing in those Parts. To which are Added, Vast Numbers of Proverbs, Phrases, and Difficult Expressions, All Literally Explained, with Their Equivalents. [And a parallel title in Spanish.], London: Printed for J[ohn] Darby [et al.], →OCLC, column 1:
      Prov[erb]. Acertadole ha Pédro a la cogujada, que el rabo lleva tuérto: Peter has hit the lark, for her tail is awry. An expreſſion in deriſion, when a man is wide of the mark.
    • 1776 February, “a Lady”, “A Sentimental Journey”, in The Lady's Magazine; or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to their Use and Enjoyment, London: Printed for G. Robinson, No. 25, Paternoster-Row, →OCLC, page 62, column 2:
      [O]ur conjectures were like arrows ſhot in the dark—they were wide of the mark—till an old gentleman came into the room, who after affixing his ſpectacles on the ſuperior part of an aquiline noſe, told us—"he ſmelt a rat!"
    • 1966, Michael J[ohn] Arlen, “Living-room War”, in The New Yorker; republished in Living-room War (Television Series), Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997, →ISBN, pages 7–8:
      I do know, though, that the cumulative effect of all these three- and five-minute film clips, with their almost unvarying implicit deference to the importance of purely military solutions (despite a few commentators' disclaimers to the contrary), and with their catering (in part unavoidably) to a popular democracy's insistent desire to view even as unbelievably complicated a war as this one in emotional terms (our guys against their guys), is surely wide of the mark, and is bound to provide these millions of people with an excessively simple, emotional and military-oriented view of what is, at best, a mighty unsimple situation.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Not to be confused with off the mark, which has a similar meaning. Wide off the mark is generally regarded as incorrect, or at least nonstandard.



See also[edit]