As the Crow Flies - Meaning, Origin and Usage

If you ask someone the distance from your location to your destination, they might respond with its five miles, “as the crow flies.” What do they mean?

This post gives you everything you need to know about the meaning and origin of this idiomatic expression.

As the Crow Flies Meaning

As the crow flies” is an idiomatic expression referring to the straight-line distance between two points. For instance, if someone asks you for directions and how far it is to their destination, you could respond with “its five miles as the crow flies,” but it might be about 7-miles total distance after you work in the detours and turns in the trip.

As the Crow Flies Example Usage

“Sure, I know how far it is to the next town; it’s around 15-miles north as the crow flies. However, there are plenty of twists and turns in the road, and you can expect it to take you around an hour to get there.”

“According to the map, the hotel is about ten miles south; as the crow flies, we could be there in time for check-in.”

“Well, Europe is about 4,000 miles or so from New York, as the crow flies.”

“If you go for about ten miles, as the crow flies, you should find the cove.”

As the Crow Flies Origin

As the crow flies” is an old expression, tracing back to the mid-1700s. The earliest written record of the use of the phrase goes back to 1761, where it appears in “Sentiments relating to the late Negotiation,” an article published in “The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: and Monthly Chronologer.”

The phrase reads.

“Now the country which those Indians inhabit is upwards of 400 miles broad, and above 600 long, each as the crow flies.”

A decade later, the phrase would appear in “A Journey from Gibraltar to Malaga; with a View of that Garrison and its Environs; a Particular Account of the Towns in the Hoya of Malaga; the Ancient and Natural History of those Cities, of the Coast between them, and of the Mountains of Ronda.”

Francis Carter used the phrase in 1772 in the following context.

“The Spaniard, if on foot, always travels as the crow flies, which the openness and dryness of the country permits.”

The “Bath Chronicle” would also use the phrase in its publication in 1774, using it in the following context.

“Proved that the churches by the travellable [sic] road were 48, in the direct line, or as the crow flies, 43 measured miles asunder.”

The “Lincoln, Rutland, and Stamford Mercury” would also use the phrase in 1791 in its publication, where it reads as follows.

“The distance, as the crow flies, is upwards of ten miles.”

Phrases Similar to As the Crow Flies

  • In the direction of.
  • Most direct route.
  • Shortest route.

Phrases Opposite to As the Crow Flies

  • A winding path.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • As the crow flies.

Ways People May Say As the Crow Flies Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase to describe the flight of crows or something to do with these animals and their behavior. In reality, the term has nothing to do with the bird or its flight path; it’s a way of estimating the distance to a destination.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase As the Crow Flies

You can use “as the crow flies” when you’re trying to give someone directions and estimate the distance to their destination. Typically, you’ll measure the distance in a straight line and not with all of the turns and redirections involved along the way to the spot. The phrase suits professional and social situations, and you probably hear it all the time in media and among your peers.

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