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I'm unfamilar with the word "abide" which is famously used the the movie quote "The Dude abides" (The Big Lebowski).

Looking it up in a German/English dictionary makes me believe it's "The Dude lives on", but I heard the word used on a way that makes it seem to be a variant of "approve", as in "The Dude does not abide this behavior".

I hear it used as "to obey" a lot, as in "we must all abide by the rules".

Can someone shed some light into the meaning of "The Dude abides" in the context it's been used?

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I think it's important to note that the sense of acting in accord with something or agree to or obey only works in the verb phrase abide by. When the Dude abides, it's a state of being not an action. –  ghoppe Aug 17 '11 at 19:19
    
I know it's a forlorn hope, but I'm voting to close on the grounds that this isn't so much about English language and usage as about literary/film criticism. It should be migrated to Movies & TV –  FumbleFingers Feb 14 '12 at 1:38
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7 Answers 7

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Some discussions of the movie reference a peaceful, almost zen acceptance, as well as the idea that

The Dude will always be around.

A discussion on Reddit of what "the Dude abides" means has some consensus that it's an

Intentionally vague phrase hinting at the fact that The Dude Lives, in his unperturbable state of dudeness, somewhere.

and that the definitions "accept" and "continue" make sense in this context.

As @wfaulk points out, today we usually use abide transitively to mean things like trusting in, accepting or obeying; so it doesn't mean The Dude accepts or endures a particular thing, but I agree that the phrase still can imply a sense of patience or toleration, even if it's just the way someone waits or continues.

If you look at the etymology of abide, you can see how some of these meanings emerge:

O.E. abidan, gebidan "remain, wait, delay, remain behind," from ge- completive prefix (denoting onward motion; see a- (1)) + bidan "bide, remain, wait, dwell" (see bide). ... Meaning "to put up with" (now usually negative) first recorded 1520s.

and going back to bide:

O.E. bidan "to stay, continue, live, remain," also "to trust, rely" (cognate of O.N. biða, O.Fris. bidia, Goth. beidan "to wait"), apparently from PIE *bheidh-, an extended stem of one root of O.E. biddan (see bid), the original sense of which was "to command," and "to trust" (cf. Gk. peithein "to persuade," pistis "faith;" L. fidere "to trust," foedus "compact, treaty," O.C.S. beda "need"). Perhaps the sense evolved in prehistoric times through "endure," and "endure a wait," to "to wait."

I think you're right: The Dude endures; The Dude lives on.

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This was exactly my interpretation of that phrase when I first saw the movie: The Dude lives on. –  ghoppe Aug 18 '11 at 15:04
    
I am accepting this because it has the most information and essentially proves that there is no definite answer. –  Michael Stum Nov 6 '11 at 8:49
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From Merriam-Webster:

abide (intransitive verb)
1 : to remain stable or fixed in a state
2 : to continue in a place : sojourn

However, its transitive meanings relate to accepting without complaint. While that cannot be the meaning in that sentence, as the construction is intransitive, I believe that the connotation is there.

Ultimately, I think it's somewhat intentionally ambiguous.

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I definitely agree it was intentionally ambiguous in the context of the movie. –  akent Aug 17 '11 at 8:03
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abide is an archaic word for living in a certain place, or more generally, accepting (living with) things some might not find easy to accept.

Almost certainly it was used here to evoke the idea of several similar passages in The Bible, which most English speakers would be most familiar with in its (somewhat archaic) King James form.

So the idea here is to draw a parallel between The Dude and God, love (Greek "agape"), and other concepts from The Bible which are described as "abiding".

Specifically, I believe this is intended to evoke I Corinthians 13 (Paul's "Ode to Love"), which is well known enough that you see it plastered on posters and assorted nick-nacks all over the place.

The meat of it is several short sentences saying "Love is ...", terminated with:

And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.*

So the "executive summary" of I Cor 13:13 is: Love abides.

(* - Note that the KJV has a weird tic of refusing to translate the Greek "agape" as love. Most folks just mentally do it for them. The above verbiage I took from the Wikipedia entry on Cor 13, which they claim is from the KJV, but to which they applied exactly that transformation)

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This answer would be improved by mentioning some of the "abide" passages in case viewers aren't familiar - for example, 1 Cor 13:13 :) –  aedia λ Aug 17 '11 at 20:48
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@aedia - Agreed. I originally went straight to Cor 13:13 in fact. However, most of the translations I found looked kinda weak. Yeah, some of them had the word, but not quite the same phrasing. I think this phrase is sort of referencing 13:13, but our memory of what it says, rather than what it actually says. However, I have no real proof of this. –  T.E.D. Aug 17 '11 at 21:42
    
@aedia - Oh. Also note that the KJV is almost unique in translating the Greek "agape" as "charity" rather than "love". IMHO that completely ruins its rendition of Cor 13. –  T.E.D. Aug 17 '11 at 21:47
    
I agree with you on that last point; the "charity" translation always drives me nuts there. –  aedia λ Aug 17 '11 at 22:06
    
@aaedia λ - OK. After sleeping on it, I figured out how to phrase it. –  T.E.D. Aug 18 '11 at 18:28
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I believe this is an allusion to Ecclesiastes 1:4 (KJV):

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

The sense of the word "abide" is certainly "to live on, to continue to exist." The whole chapter expresses the idea that human affairs are of only fleeting importance, and are insignificant in the context of the unchanging earth and its natural cycles.

Similarly, I understand the line from the film as suggesting that the Dude is a sort of eternal natural force, not affected by the doings of ordinary mortals. It is to be understood as a philosophical musing, not a literal statement.

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"The dude abides" is bigger than a literal translation. It is the slogan for a whole generation of slackers who are at once narcissistic and harmless buffoons who wish, in large, to be left alone to continue their "dudeness".

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This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time and needs to be shown in the context it was used to truly understand its meaning—of which Michael was partially correct in his initial thought.

From the script:

THE STRANGER: Sure. Take it easy, Dude--I know that you will.

THE DUDE, LEAVING, NODS:

DUDE:Yeah man. Well, you know, the Dude abides.

Gazing after him, The Stranger drawls, savoring the words:

THE STRANGER: The Dude abides.

He gives his head a shake of appreciation, then looks into the camera.

THE STRANGER: I don't know about you, but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there, the Dude, takin' her easy for all us sinners...

The dude abides, in this context, means the Dude obeys - in this case, the Dude will take it easy. He is following the strangers wishes, granting his request.

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"abides" does not mean "obeys". –  ShreevatsaR Aug 17 '11 at 17:42
    
-1. The OP's question was not the true definition of the word "abide" - it was the definition of the word in the context it was presented in. In this case it absolutely does mean "obey". The stranger tells the dude to take it easy. The dude says he abides - he is obeying the stranger's wishes that the dude take it easy. –  RGW1976 Aug 17 '11 at 18:00
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@RGW1976 Sorry, that's not the way I interpret his reply. The Dude is not saying "the Dude obeys your request", he is saying that he already takes it easy, always. The Dude abides means the Dude is constant or the Dude always takes it easy. –  ghoppe Aug 17 '11 at 19:13
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@RGW1976 Again, it's important to emphasize that both The Dude and The Stranger are using abide intransitively. To obey requires a direct object. Abide is clearly a state of being in this dialogue. The intransitive connotations of abide are evoked in this state of being: stability, in a fixed state of taking it easy. –  ghoppe Aug 18 '11 at 14:58
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I'm in disagreement with your interpretation of the word "abides" too (see my answer), but frankly the rest of your answer is so helpful I wouldn't dream of downvoting it. –  T.E.D. Aug 18 '11 at 21:19
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I think that "the dude abides" means much more than just "obey" or "live on" or "taking it easy". I would go further: it means that the Dude is above all that – and whatever – shit, that he is superior to everything and even that live is a load everybody – including him – has to bear, it doesn't matter for him. Since he reached the "dudeness", kind of nirvana for those who follow the "Dudeism", he went to another level of existence. He simply doesn't care anymore because he doesn’t have anything to care about.

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protected by RegDwigнt Feb 14 '12 at 13:06

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