Pull-oneself-up-by-one-s-bootstraps Definition


(idiomatic) To begin an enterprise or recover from a setback without any outside help; to succeed only on one's own effort or abilities.

We can't get a loan, so we'll just have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Origin of Pull-oneself-up-by-one-s-bootstraps

  • Early 19th century US; attested 1834. In original use, often used to refer to pulling oneself over a fence, and implying that someone is attempting or has claimed some ludicrously far-fetched or impossible task. Presumably a variant on a traditional tall tale, as elaborated below. The shift in sense to a possible task appears to have developed in the early 20th century, and the use of the phrase to mean “a ludicrous task” continued into the 1920s.

    From Wiktionary

  • Widely attributed to The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, (1781) by Rudolf Erich Raspe, where the eponymous Baron pulls himself out of a swamp by his hair (specifically, his pigtail), though not by his bootstraps; misattribution dates to US, 1901. The Adventures is primarily a collection of traditional (centuries-old) tall tales; using bootstraps presumably arose as a variant on the same tall tale, or arose independently.

    From Wiktionary

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