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Idiom

Know the Ropes: Origin and Meaning

Meaning
To know and understand how to do something, especially a job.
Origin
Know the ropesThis idiom originated from shipping. A sailing ship had many ropes which operated the ship’s sails. Sailors had to learn exactly which rope operated each sail and they also had to learn how to tie many different types of knots. When a sailor knew all of this, he “knew the ropes”.
Examples
“There is a new member of staff starting next week. Can someone who knows the ropes please volunteer to show him around?”

Mr Adams: “Emmanuel, can you scan this document and send it to Janice?”
Emmanuel: “No problem Mr Adams. Can you show me how to use the scanner?”
Mr Adams: “You’ve been working here for 3 months already – you really should know the ropes already.”

Also used in the forms ‘learn the ropes’, ‘teach someone the ropes’ and ‘show someone the ropes’.

“I hired an excellent assistant last month. It didn’t take her long to learn the ropes.”

“Welcome to our company. Rachel will teach you the ropes over the next 2 weeks.”