A baseball term that means a batter is swinging at the ball as hard as possible, hoping for a home run. This phrase is also used figuratively to mean a person is going ‘all out’, or giving something their maximum effort.
The Origin Of ‘Swinging For The Fences’
This phrase likely originates from the sport of baseball. Why? Because in baseball, it’s possible for a batter to hit the ball hard enough that it flies outside the outfield. This makes it impossible for the defensive team to catch or retrieve the ball. As a result, the batting team gets a home run.
With that in mind, there are fences along the edges of the outfield. So if a batter hits the ball hard enough, it should fly right past those fences and out of the park. would result in a home run. Thus, a batter that’s attempting to ‘swing for the fences’ is basically trying to hit the ball as hard as he can in order to get a home run.
I can only find the expression in writing starting from the first half of the 20th century, and these early recordings of the saying are all used in the context of baseball. For example, the Sandusky Star Journal newspaper, printed in 1923, writes:
“Now the only thought of every batter is to swing his hardest. The home-run germ has even hit the pitches. No longer do the batters seek to outguess the opposition, trip up the infield, the one big thought is swing for the fences.”
- Jessica will be swinging for the fences for her upcoming math test. However, because she’s been busy with work all week, she’s worried about if she’ll be able to pass.
Note: The origins for a number of common phrases and sayings are unclear. Because of this, the origins you see listed are plausible theories for how the term came to exist. Remember, these are just theories. Moreover, the quotes you see that contain the saying are the oldest that I could find.
Keep in mind, just because you see a saying in a newspaper from 1850 does not necessarily mean it originated from that year. In all likelihood, if a saying is being used in print, then it’s probably already a known saying at the time. The purpose of these old quotes is to give you a rough idea on how old some phrases are.