This phrase is used to describe anything that is very fast in terms of speed.
Example: The cheetah is the fastest land animal, capable of reaching speeds up to 70 mph. Thus, after seeing a cheetah run, someone might describe its speed by saying the animal is as fast as greased lightning.
The Origin Of ‘Greased Lightning’
Lightning is known for being quick. As for lubricants like oil and grease, well, certain machinery tends to run smoother and faster when it is properly lubricated. Thus, with this phrase, the notion is that you if you were grease up lightning, it would be even faster.
The expression was in use at least as far back as the 1800s. For example, the expression is used in an English newspaper called The Boston, Lincoln, Louth & Spalding Herald, in January, 1833:
“He spoke as quick as ‘greased lightning.’ “
- One of my roommates had an essay due in a couple days, and you could tell because his fingers were moving across the keyboard as fast as greased lightning!
- This man speaks as quick as greased lightning; I can’t even make out anything that’s he’s saying… someone tell him to slow down.
Note: Know Your Phrase has the meaning of hundreds of sayings. Did you know, though, that an expression’s origin is not always clear? Indeed, and in cases like that, what I’ll do is either include an explanation as to how an expression originated, or, if I don’t do that, I’ll try to at least include a quote on the page of the earliest known citation of a phrase being used. These quotes are to give you an idea for how old a saying is.