English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The intuitive answer to me would be to "emphasize" something. This explanation seems different from others I've seen, however, that say it means to "finish something". Help on this?

share|improve this question
What's the explanation that seems different? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jul 15 '11 at 15:11
finish something? which I totally didn't expect it... – stonebird Jul 15 '11 at 15:14
I don't find anything difficult to understand in the question, and don't know why it has been marked down. "different from other" is not standard, but seems perfectly clear to me. – Colin Fine Jul 15 '11 at 15:22
The two different meanings for this are probably regional. – GEdgar Jul 15 '11 at 17:23
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The idiom does have a different meaning from "emphasize".

draw a line under something

if you draw a line under something, it is finished and you do not think about it again: Let's draw a line under the whole episode and try to continue our work in a more positive frame of mind.

share|improve this answer
I guess it's like doing a "check" on your checklist? or maybe cross it out? – stonebird Jul 15 '11 at 15:15
Don't, however, confuse it with the similar phrase draw the line (at something). This means "to set a limit at something; to decide when a limit has been reached." You can make as much noise as you want, but I draw the line at fighting. It's hard to keep young people under control, but you have to draw the line somewhere. – Daniel Jul 15 '11 at 15:15
Thank you very much. – stonebird Jul 15 '11 at 15:18
Now, I don't think it's either a "check" (I would say a "tick" in the UK) or crossing it out. The image for me is an account book, or perhaps a record of incidents. When one event is finished with you draw a line right across the page to mark the end of that and a fresh start. – Colin Fine Jul 15 '11 at 15:20
Well done, Colin! – stonebird Jul 15 '11 at 15:33

Think of it like writing down a column of figures to add. When it's time to finish, you "draw a line under it", do the arithmetic and move on to the next one.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to EL&U. This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Can you try to include reference/link and its essential parts in your answer? Please take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance. – Rathony Jan 6 at 8:36

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.