Bending Over Backwards - Meaning, Usage and Origin

Bending over backwards for someone or something is quite impossible unless you're a seasoned gymnast or a yoga practitioner. So, what does this idiom mean? When should you use it in a sentence, and when is it appropriate to use this phrase?

There is some evidence of the use of the phrase dating back as far as 920 CE. Bending over backwards for someone or something is an expression referring to expending effort to ensure a positive outcome with a task.

Let's unpack everything you need to know about using "bend over backwards" in a conversation.

“Bending Over Backwards” – The Meaning

If someone says they will bend over backwards for you, they're saying that they will do everything in their power and means to get you the required result you need.

The phrase could also mean that they will work hard to please another person, like their boss. They bend over backwards for someone, or something is usually used in a conversation to build the other party's confidence in you.

By telling someone you will bend over backwards for them, you're committing to achieving the outcome they require for a task. However, you're not just stating you will get something done; you're suggesting that you will ensure you do it to the best of your abilities.

Example Usage

If you're wondering how and when to use "bending over backwards" in a conversation, here are some examples.

  • Governments are bending over backwards to ensure the economy grows.
  • I love my job, and I'll bend over backwards to ensure the success of the company.
  • We operate in a tough industry, and we need to be bending over backwards for customers to stay ahead of the competition.
  • Our hosts are bending over backwards to ensure we have a pleasant stay.
  • I'll be bending over backwards to make her my partner.
  • I'll make sure I’m bending over backwards for the client if that means getting the contract.

The Origin of “Bending Over Backwards”

This idiom has its roots in gymnastics, where it described the athletic movement of bending the spine to accomplish a tremendous physical feat.

Modern gymnastics has its origins in Germany in the early 1800s. However, the use of gymnastics as entertainment and sport traces back to the Byzantine Empire in Europe.

Documents show the early use of this idiom as far back as 920 CE. It's a reference to gymnasts explaining the art of bending over backwards in motion.

Phrases and Synonyms Similar to “Bending Over Backwards”

Several phrases act as synonyms to the act of "bending over backwards." All of the uses refer to the same act of going beyond people's expectations to achieve an outstanding result.

  • To try very hard.
  • Make every effort possible.
  • Toil until the ends of the earth.
  • To go all out.
  • To do whatever it takes.
  • To give it your best shot.
  • To jump through hoops for someone.

Phrases Opposite to “Bending Over Backwards”

Here are a few examples of the counter-meaning of the idiom, "bending over backwards."

  • To neglect your responsibilities.
  • To fail to try.
  • To discourage attempts to succeed.
  • To repress someone's efforts.
  • To surrender without putting up a fight.

What is the Correct Saying?

There are several ways to use the idiom of "bending over backwards." You'll find most people use it when they are talking to a friend, family member, client, or boss.

The use of the idiom shows that the speaker will commit themselves to make the best effort at a specific task required by the other person in the conversation.

The following scenarios provide the best use of the idiom in day-to-day situations.

  • If the person is facing a challenging task.
  • If the person wants to convince the other party in the conversation, they will make their best effort.
  • If the person is trying to impress the other party in the conversation.

How People Use “Bending Over Backwards” Incorrectly?

While "bending over backwards" is a common phrase used in modern society, many people use the term incorrectly, confusing the other person involved in the conversation.

Some examples of the incorrect use of "bending over backwards" are the following.

  • I was bending over backwards to reach my pen on the floor.
  • I bent over backwards to clean the floor.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase “Bending Over Backwards”

There are a few ways one could acceptably phrase "bending over backwards."

  • "I bent over backwards to accommodate the client's requests."
  • Do you ever bend over backwards to help others?"

The use of the idiom is quite common in today's society. By stating that you'll bend over backwards, you're instilling confidence in your efforts in the eyes of the other party.

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