What is the etymology of the expression "so far, so good"?
Why is the meaning of "so far" in that phrase different from the meaning it has in "it's so far"?

3 Answers 3


This is an older meaning of "so" that used to be very common in English but has fallen out of use, where "so" means "in this manner/condition". We still use it when we say things like "you do it like so", "just-so story", "it was so long (and you gesture with your hands to indicate out long)". Actually, the first three entries in dictionary.com seem to convey this meaning.

So, the "so far" part means "up to now" and the "so good" part means "it is good in this manner/condition".

  • Hum, that doesn't really make sense to me, if the "so" means "in this manner", why does "so far" mean "up to now"?
    – delete
    Aug 18, 2010 at 0:06
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    @Shinto Sherlock It doesn't only mean that... didn't you see the seventeen different meanings of "so" as an adverb in dictionary.com? Just because they are in the same sentence doesn't mean the two words have to be used in the same sense...
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 18, 2010 at 1:11
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    Actually I think "it was so long" is different from "you do it like so", and means "to this degree" - which is also what it means in "so far". ("As far as this").
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 18, 2010 at 9:14

One of the meanings of the phrase "so far" (always with the stress on the "so") is "up to now", with an implication that whatever (good) state of affairs is being described may not continue: "So far I haven't had any problems"

"So far, so good", like many proverbs, is made up of two abbreviated phrases set against one another. It means "Up to now, everything is good".

I can't think of another context in which "so good" has this meaning.

  • Huh? The stress in "so far so good" is not on either of the sos.
    – delete
    Aug 18, 2010 at 0:08
  • You're right, and I noticed that later. In "so far" on its own, the stress is on 'so', but the whole phrase "so far, so good" is odd in that respect as well as in the otherwise unused sense of "so good".
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 18, 2010 at 9:11

I don't know what the etymology is, but the way I interpret the saying, the meaning of "so far" isn't so far from the meaning you refer to, the critical difference being that in your example "far" is referring to physical distance and in the saying "far" refers to length of time.

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