As the Crow Files

Meaning of Idiom ‘As the Crow Flies’

As the crow flies means in a straight line, without having to follow roads or without any detours; without having to go around any obstacles, such as hills, mountains, lakes, etc. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.,3Jarvie, Gordon. Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.


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Usage

As the crow flies is usually used to indicate the actual distance between two places even though the distance one has to travel to get from one to the other is actually longer because of land obstacles and the fact that roads rarely go in a straight line from one place to another.

Examples Of Use

“It’s only about 10 miles as the crow flies but it’s about 12 miles if you take the lake road.”

“I’m from a small town called Carson. It’s about eight miles from the city as the crow flies.”

“It’s not so far to where I work as the crow flies but with traffic each morning, it still takes me an hour to get there.”

Origin

Used since at least the 1750s.

This idiom alludes to the fact that birds, since they do not have to go around obstacles on land, can travel in a straight line and thus a shorter distance. We cannot be sure as to why crows are specified as opposed to any other bird, but it presumably has to do with the fact that crows are very intelligent animals and tend to travel straight to the nearest food supply. However, it is likely that the idiom grew from the fact that crows, or blackbirds, are very common and well-known, especially since they tend to follow humans in order to take advantage of the food scraps humans invariably leave behind.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News – 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.
3. Jarvie, Gordon. Bloomsbury Dictionary of Idioms. London: Bloomsbury, 2009.