Down To Earth – Meaning & Origin


Down to earth is a phrase that means practical or humble; unpretentious; reasonable.

Example: Louis had a nice conversation with someone he met at the gym. He thought the person had a real down to earth personality.

In other words, Louis found him to be sensible, or reasonable.

Synonyms / Related Phrases: level-headed, sensible, mater-of-fact, rational.

Idiom: Down to earth, planet in space.
Planet Earth with detailed relief and atmosphere. Day and Night. Pacific Ocean.

Origin Of ‘Down to Earth’

The origin of the idiom “down to earth” is not clear. The earliest I could find it in print with its figurative meaning is during the early 20th century. During this time, it was commonly used (and this may still be the case to some extent) to describe the cost of certain items and how ‘reasonable and affordable’ these prices were. For example, in the Newark Advocate newspaper from 1922, there’s a section in the paper about women’s clothing that says:

“Here are four groups of worth-while garments at ‘down to earth’ prices.”

A second example of this phrase being used in this way comes from the Sandusky Star Journal newspaper, 1935:

“And, while our fashions are as new as tomorrow, our prices are the good down-to-earth prices that save you money.”

Two Different, But Related Phrases?

While there’s no way to really know for sure, I’m curious as to whether the phrases “down to earth” and “out of this world” are related in some way. Did they form around the same time? I just find it odd how these two phrases share a similar word (earth/world), but their meaning is basically the exact opposite of one another. While being “down to earth” refers to something that’s normal or reasonable, “out of this world” refers to something that’s crazy or bizarre.

Examples: Down To Earth

  • I was worried that the repair costs of fixing my broken car would be too much for me to pay, however the prices were actually down to earth and reasonable.

Note: The origin of many popular sayings are not known. Generally then, what you’ll see on the phrase’s page is either a theory about its origin, or there will be a citation. The purpose of these citations is to give you an idea on how far back a saying goes. So if you see an idiom being quoted in a book from 1600, then you know the idiom is at least that old.

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