Did someone tell you to 'go the extra mile' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
'Go the extra mile' is an idiom that means to make an extra effort. When someone 'goes the extra mile,' it means they have done a particularly good job by doing more than is expected.
What it looks like to actually 'go the extra mile' can be fairly varied depending on the context.
Here are some examples of what it could mean to put in extra effort beyond what is expected of you:
This idiom comes from a Biblical verse in the Gospel of Matthew in the fifth chapter. In the forty-first verse, we find the following in the King James Version of the Bible:
A more modern translation can be found in the World English Bible, providing the following verse:
The New International Version of the Bible translates the verse as such:
"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."
The idiom of 'go the extra mile' dates back to the Gospel of Matthew, which is the first book of the New Testament. Along with the gospels of Mark and Luke, this is one of the three synoptic gospels.
Our phrase is found in the fifth chapter, which is where one can find the first section of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings that Jesus spoke that highlight his moral teachings. This part of the Bible is one of the most widely quoted.
Here is a larger selection of this chapter to help put the idiom in greater context:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
The implication of Matthew 5:41 is that one should not seek revenge on one's enemies but instead give more to them. Rather than seeking an 'eye for an eye,' this teaching is often understood to mean that one should freely give away more than their enemy is able to take.
Using the Google Ngram Viewer, we see that the precise phrasing of going 'the extra mile' rather than some variation of going 'the second mile' appears to have become increasingly popular during the early to mid-20th century.
We find our first example in Volume 64 of Friends' Intelligencer from 1907:
"The one who does an injury suffers the loss of spiritual love. Go to him who has injured thee, even if he is unthankful and unkind-- go the extra mile with him, and he may be won through the mile of freedom and redeeming love. How many an extra mile our Father goes with us in our waywardness, our sinfulness."
In an article in the S. D. E. A. Journal called "Making Supervision Effective," we find another early 20th-century example of the phrase in the text:
"Teachers must go the extra mile beyond compulsion. It is not the successful nor the efficient teacher who does only those things definitely laid down by law or by necessity. The teacher who displays initiative and who is willing and even anxious to do those innumerable things which are not compulsory but which are so necessary for the proper development of the boys and girls in the school is the teacher who finds the pupils developing a willingness to work and who finds it unnecessary to drive the children to do their best work."
Over time, the idiom 'go the extra mile' has shifted somewhat from its original Biblical meaning to simply imply that one should put extra effort into a task or experience. For this reason, we find that it is a popular phrase among motivational speakers and self-help authors. There is a general agreement among many of these thinkers that we can individually benefit when we put in more effort than is expected of us.
Here are some examples of the phrase being used by well-known figures:
"One of the most important principles of success is developing the habit of going the extra mile."
- Napoleon Hill
"Today, do just a little bit more. Turn going the extra mile into a habit - it is what lifts most successful people above the crowd."
- Bob Proctor
"There are no traffic jams when you go the extra mile."
- Zig Ziglar
How would 'go the extra mile' be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:
What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'go the extra mile'?
Here are some options:
When you 'go the extra mile,' it means you did more than what was expected of you. Rather than simply doing the minimum required in a situation, you gave it your all and achieved a higher level of excellence.
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