Fall Through the Cracks – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to say something that escaped your attention and memory? You could say you let it “fall through the cracks” of your mind. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “fall through the cracks” means something or someone to go unnoticed, unobserved, or ignored. It means that you weren’t paying attention to something or someone, and you didn’t retain any memory to return to it or them at a later date.

It also means that a person or object is neglected, overlooked, or forgotten. You can use “fall through the cracks” to describe situations where things slip by quality control or inspection. The phrase can also refer to you forgetting about something while prioritizing other work or tasks.

The expression can mean that a small task or an unimportant request goes ignored or unnoticed because you have more pressing matters at hand. Someone will eventually remind you if something falls through the cracks. When you realize your mistake, it will cause you frustration or regret ignoring or forgetting about it.

Example Usage

“Thomas grew up in the nursing home, and he went ignored and unobserved for his childhood. With no one paying any attention to him, it’s not surprising he went on to fall through the cracks.”

“I let that project fall the rough the cracks when I should have delegated it to someone. Now the boss is on my back for results, and we haven’t started anything yet.”

“If life lets you fall through the cracks, your only choice is to climb back out and make something of yourself. No one is going to do it for you.”

“How did she fall through the cracks? We’ve been checking everyone’s passport, but she manages to make it through unscathed? I need to speak to your superior right now.”

“If you let this fall through the cracks, it’s on you. I’m not going to be responsible when they ask you where the results are, and you can’t deliver.”

“I guess we left it to fall through the cracks. Twenty years later, we come back to the house to find it undisturbed, sitting right there like the day we left it.”


The expression “fall through the cracks” originates from the saying “fall between the floorboards.” This saying comes from times when building practices were not as refined as today. As a result, builders and construction companies would construct walkways using boards, leaving small cracks between the wooden slats.

Small items like coins or pieces of paper would fall from people’s pockets onto the floorboards and disappear through the cracks. Language experts are unsure when “fall through the cracks” replaced fall through the floorboards. However, some believe the change happened in the mid-1900s.

Ways People May Say Fall through the Cracks Incorrectly

The expression doesn’t mean that people fall through a crack. The “crack” in the phrase refers to going unnoticed or unseen or being away from the attention of others.

By “falling” through the cracks, the person, object, or task avoids the attention of others. It has nothing to do with falling into a crevasse, a hole in a hillside, or other such geological hazards.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Fall through the Cracks

You can use “fall through the cracks” when describing how someone avoided scrutiny for their actions or when something goes undetected for quality control. It also suits situations where something is neglected and left to the wayside.

The phrase suits professional and social use. You could say that the specifics of a project fell through the cracks while you were focusing on something else that needed your attention. You could say that a child growing up in an orphanage would fall through the cracks of society and remain uncared for in life.

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