Commonly used expressions are recognized by most people within a culture, region, or language. But, sometimes, we use them so often that we need to remember what they actually mean and where they come from. Some idioms are easy to understand, while others can be more difficult to make sense of. Discover a “Bird’s-eye view” meaning and origin, and learn how to use it conversationally.
What Kind of Saying is a Bird’s-Eye View?
The phrase “A bird’s-eye view” is an idiomatic expression. Idioms are informal language with an established meaning that differs from the words in the expression. This type of language can be difficult for people not native to a particular culture or region. American English has many turns of phrase that can sound downright ridiculous if you’ve never heard them. But every language has idioms unique to its people. And the best way to learn these expressions is to research or ask a friendly native willing to give you the scoop (there’s another one).
Here are some examples of idiomatic expressions and their meanings.
- “My rent costs an arm and a leg” – very expensive
- “I’ll finish my homework when pigs fly” – never
- “Hold your tongue” – stop talking
- “That was a piece of cake” – extremely easy
- “I feel under the weather” – sick/unwell
Where Does the Phrase a Bird’s-Eye View Come From?
The exact origin of the phrase “A bird’s-eye view” is unknown. However, it was first used in speech and text during the 16th century. During the 19th century, the United States and Europe used the term to describe aerial photographic shots. They also used bird’s-eye view drawings for blueprints, maps, and floor plans. Photographs were taken from high-vantage locations, such as towers and mountains, and drawings captured what people believed to be a bird’s perspective as they flew overhead.
What Does a Bird’s-Eye View Mean?
The phrase “A bird’s-eye view” can be literal or figurative. Literally, a bird’s-eye view means to see something from a high angle. And figuratively, it means an overall view or larger picture of something or looking at a situation from a different angle.
For instance, if you wanted an overall view of Paris, you could climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and get a bird’s-eye view.
Or, maybe, you are dealing with a tough situation, and you need to take a step back and look at the problem with a bird’s-eye view. We use a bird’s-eye view when we need to get a better look at something or gain perspective.
When you’re in a room of a house you’ve never been in, all you see are four walls. You don’t know what’s on the other side or how they’re all connected. But if you were to have a bird’s-eye view of the floorplan, you can now see the entire flow of the house.
It’s the same with work problems or personal problems. Sometimes, when you are too close to a situation, you can’t accurately judge the issue or solve it. To gain perspective, you need to view things from a different angle, a bird’s-eye view.
A Bird’s-Eye View Examples
Here are some examples of the phrase “A bird’s-eye view” used conversationally.
- “If you hike to the top of Horsetooth Mountain you will see a beautiful bird’s-eye view of the city below.”
- “If you look out your plane window, you can get a bird’s-eye view of Washington D.C.”
- “What’s the bird’s-eye view of the new project?”
- “The syllabus will give you a bird’s-eye view of the course.”
- “It would be better if I had a bird’s-eye view of the floorplan.”
- “Let’s take a step back and get a bird’s-eye view before we proceed.”
A Bird’s-Eye View Similar Sayings
Some synonyms for “A bird’s-eye view” include aerial view, panorama, fly-on-the-wall, broad, comprehensive, and overview. Antonyms for the phrase include worm’s-eye view (a view from the ground), nonspecific, vague, and obscurity.
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