Is the phrase "move over" an official English idiom known worldwide? I would like to know:

  1. Is it an official English idiom (not slang or colloquial)?
  2. Is it known outside of the US (e.g. in the UK, Australia, India)?
  3. Does it have any multiple meanings? Does it have any ambiguousness?
  4. How likely it is for a non-native English speaker to know what this idiom means?
  5. What is its official meaning? (is it "make way" or "move aside")

Can it mean "move toward"?

  • 9
    Yes! The OBANEI (Official Board of Approval for New English Idioms) has recently processed this submission, but if you want it very badly, feel free to drop me an eveloppe with €50 and I'll send you the official document with the organization's seal of approval.
    – F'x
    Mar 28, 2011 at 15:17
  • 7
    Don't forget OBANEI Lite, which I intend to set up tonight. Very similar Seal Of Approval (except that mine includes free CAPITALISATION), but much more competitive at a mere £25! Only downside is we never accept anything ending in -ization, but other than that we are prepared to deal fairly with Americans. Mar 28, 2011 at 15:44
  • @F'x - If you can send me a letter of unapproval, I'll pay you 250$ :) it may be funny to you, but in Hebrew, you do have such an institution... Also isn't the Oxford dictionary considered the "OBANEI" of English? I'm sure it costs less than 50 euros...
    – Eran Medan
    Mar 29, 2011 at 3:31
  • 1
    this is discussed in the question “Regulatory bodies and authoritative dictionaries for English”
    – F'x
    Mar 29, 2011 at 7:12
  • The OED is only GBP 300 on CD-ROM, and GBP 750 in paper. oed.com/public/buy/the-oed-in-print-and-on-cdrom Mar 30, 2011 at 17:53

4 Answers 4

  1. What is this "Official" of which you speak?
  2. Yes. It's a perfectly common phrase in the UK, with variants such as "Budge over" or "Shift over" having the same meaning. I can't speak for other countries, but I have no reason to suspect that it's limited to the US and the UK.
  3. Not really, no.
  4. As per 2, I'd expect most native English speakers to recognise it, though I could be wrong.
  5. Again, what do you mean by "official"? The English language doesn't have a governing body in the way that the Académie française tries to be for French. Dictionaries follow usage rather than defining it. I understand "Move over" as meaning "Move aside," such as to make space on a sofa or give the speaker access to a computer keyboard.

"Move over" on its own doesn't imply motion towards anything, just (short) motion away. You could say "Move over to [somewhere]," but that's a different construction.

  • 1
    My point is, the Georgia "Move Over" law in the driver's manual is saying no more than "One has to move over one lane" and I, as a non-native English speaker, mistaken that (due to confusion with pull over) for moving one lane to the right (e.g. toward the stopped police car) which got me a court order. I'm trying to see if it's only me that is unfamiliar with this idiom, and if I have any case saying it's not something a non-native english speaker would be likely to know.
    – Eran Medan
    Mar 29, 2011 at 3:21
  • Official as in - is ok to be used in legistlative and official legal documents?
    – Eran Medan
    Mar 29, 2011 at 3:34
  • @Ehrann Mehdan: context is key. Without more information, i.e. why you are supposed to be doing it, I would interpret "move over" in the same sense as "pull over." With the rest of the law as context, it should be clearer that you are meant to move left; either that or the law is poorly drafted.
    – user1579
    Mar 29, 2011 at 13:54
  • 1
    Oh, and almost any language could be used in legal and legislative documents as long as it is clear. There is a degree of formality that is expected, and the requirement to be clear imposes a certain amount of formality, but "move over" wouldn't look out of place.
    – user1579
    Mar 29, 2011 at 14:01
  • @Rhodri This is what I was looking for, I'll submit a new question with that clarification and close this one
    – Eran Medan
    Apr 2, 2011 at 20:23

Move over (or move aside) is a phrasal verb that means "adjust one's position to make room for someone else." It is used in both British English, and American English.

People who don't speak English as first language should not have any problems to understand the phrase, if they understand what move means. In some other languages it is not necessary to add over to move to suggest to make room for another person.

Move over is not slang phrase.

In American English, move over could also have two additional meanings.

  • to stop doing something in order to let someone else do it
  • to start to do something in a different way

She moved over to let me pass.
They seem to expect older musicians to move over so that the younger ones can get a chance.
Most companies moved over to direct payments years ago.

  • I'm not a native English speaker, and I recently heard it the first time as part of the traffic "move over law" described as "one must move over one lane", and was thinking it's the same notion as "pull over" e.g. means "move toward" the right lane, and not as "move away" from it. I agree it makes more sense the other way, but without explanation, also the other can in some twisted way (e.g. allow a cop to stop you, which is harder from the left lane)
    – Eran Medan
    Mar 29, 2011 at 3:28
  • @Ehrann Mehdan In that case I would think of move over as "move to make space to whom is overtaking," or "move to make space to whom is entering a road." I think move over law is referring to the latter case.
    – apaderno
    Mar 29, 2011 at 11:48

I wouldn't say move over is actually slang or colloquial. But it's normally used as a curt injunction to someone to get out of your way (or line of sight), which in effect makes it somewhat rude, and "slangy" by association.

Step aside, please [sir] is preferrable if you want to be firm without giving offense. Certainly that's what I'd expect from, say, a policeman speaking to a member of the public in relevant circumstances.

  • 1
    Not necessarily rude. If my family members are occupying all of the sofa and I want them to make space for me to sit down, I could ask them to "move over" without it being at all rude. Here it can be quite affectionate. (BrEng)
    – A E
    Nov 20, 2014 at 18:38
  • 2
    @A E: I'm also BrE - and in my particular milieu, "Budge up!" and "Shift your arse!" can also be affectionate ways of requesting a bit more sofa space. But none of these expressions are the kind of language you'd expect from "a policeman speaking to a member of the public" - being a context where it's meaningful to discuss the inherent, objective rudeness/impropriety of such usages. Nov 21, 2014 at 12:55

"Move over" is probably short for "move over there." Its shortened meaning is:


Get out of the way.

Take a few steps to the side.

I am not sure how I would classify it as Official or not but the phrase is immediately understood by every culture I interact with in the United States.

Any ambiguities in the term would be cleared up by the emotional tint used when speaking. "Move over!" implies a frustration that someone is standing where you need to be or view or go. "Please move over a bit" is instructing you were you should probably be standing.

As with most phrases involving two words, you will also find it buried in other sentences without the specific meanings or connotations of the phrase itself:

I want this moved over there.

He moved over the river.

The latter is more common as "he moved across the river" but you will hear "over" from a few people.

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