Idiom #9: As the Crow Flies

This week’s idiom:

“As the crow flies.”

Meaning:

The shortest distance between two points.

Origin:

The idiom “as the crow flies” seems to have been in use since the early 1800s. One source I found said:

British coastal vessels customarily carried a cage of crows. Crows detest large expanses of water and head, as straight as a crow flies, towards the nearest land if released at sea – very useful if you were unsure of the nearest land when sailing in foggy waters before the days of radar. The lookout perch on sailing vessels thus became known as the crow’s nest.

Several other sources I found gave a very similar answer. In my experience crows and ravens do not fly in particularly straight lines and there are many other species that may fly more directly to a given spot. On reflection, I feel that the point this idiom is making is that a bird, any bird, is easily able to fly directly from one point to another without being hindered by obstacles like humans might be. This direct flight is therefore the shortest distance between those two points.

Example:

  • “I am three kilometres from my home, as the crow flies, but by car it is five kilometres.”
 

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