In The Offing

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In The Offing : Phrases


Imminent - likely to happen soon.



Another of the many phrases with a nautical origin. This one's quite simple once you know what 'the offing' is. It's the part of the sea that is most distant from the shore but is still visible. Early texts also refer to it as 'offen' or 'offin'.

So, someone who was waiting for and watching out for a ship would first see it approaching when it was 'in the offing' and when it was expected to dock soon. Something that was 'in the offing' isn't happening now or even in a minute or two, but will inevitably happen before too long. The phrase has migrated from its naval origin into general use in the language and is now used to describe any event that is imminent.

The phrase has been in use since the late 16th century and the earliest known citation is a quotation from S. Argoll from 1610 which was reported by S. Purchas in ' Purchas his Pilgrimes' in 1906:

"I came to an Anchor in seven fathomes water in the offing to sea."

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