'Go the Extra Mile': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on September 1, 2023

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.

In short:

  • 'Go the extra mile' means to put in additional effort or do more in a situation than what is expected.

What Does 'Go the Extra Mile' Mean?

'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:

  • Staying up late and/or waking up early to finish an important project
  • Offering to help someone in need
  • Picking up additional responsibilities at your work beyond what is found in your job description
  • Doing unexpected acts of kindness
  • Training beyond what is required for an athletic event
  • Setting and surpassing personal records

Where Does 'Go the Extra Mile' Come From?

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:

"And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

A more modern translation can be found in the World English Bible, providing the following verse:

"Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two."

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 Biblical Origin of the Phrase

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.

Examples of the Phrase in Text

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."

Popular Quotes Using This Idiom

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

"Put 'going the extra mile' to work as part of one's daily habit."

- Bruce Lee

"It's never crowded along the extra mile."

- Wayne Dyer

Examples of 'Go the Extra Mile' In Sentences

How would 'go the extra mile' be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • "My whole life, I've always cut corners. I think it's time I started going the extra mile instead."
  • "Don't tell me I didn't go the extra mile on that project. I went above and beyond, and you know it."
  • "Sarah went the extra mile in high school. She didn't just graduate at the top of her class, but she also was a star athlete and spent her free time volunteering in the community."
  • "Whether you choose to go the extra mile is up to you. I can't force you to do more than is expected, but you're the one who will ultimately benefit if you do."
  • "When the amateur player went the extra mile during the game, he truly overshadowed the athlete that was expected to be the star of the show."

Other Ways to Say 'Go the Extra Mile'

What are some other words and phrases that have a similar meaning to 'go the extra mile'?

Here are some options:

  • Go above and beyond
  • Give it your all
  • Goes the distance
  • Exceeds expectations
  • Gives 110%
  • Pull out all the stops
  • Spare no effort

Final Thoughts About 'Go the Extra Mile'

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.

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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