In yesterday's Outfront anchored by Erin Burnett, she and one of the panelists exchanged the below conversation:

Burnett: So, Van, Clinton was wrong technically in terms of there's been no evidence of video. Okay? Wrong on that. Does she owe Donald Trump an apology?

Van Jones, Former Special Adviser to President Obama: Well, I don't think so. First of all, she overshot the runway trying to make an accurate point. Lots and lots of terrorism experts have said over and over again, when you have the kind of bombastic rhetoric that Donald Trump has and increasingly other Republicans have, where it seems like they're smearing all Muslims...

The topic was whether Clinton should apologize for her unsubstantiated remarks in the debate:

The country needed to make sure the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going out people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.

The noun runway means:

A strip of hard ground along which aircraft take off and land.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

  1. I understand its meaning in the context, but what does it exactly mean? I tried to Google the idiom, but I found only one hit in Urban Dictionary whose definition doesn't seem to fit in the context (I don't want to put it here).

  2. I wonder if there are any other (better) single words or idioms that can express the same meaning in the above quote. Any suggestion?

  3. I can't find the origin of the idiom. I would like to know when and how the idiom started to mean what it means now. I can just speculate it could have started as a military term.

  • 1
    Ngram - books.google.com/ngrams/… - shows usage from the 40's. It appears to comes from the aviation jargon-.- It is normally down during operations. When it is determined that an aircraft is going to overshoot the runway or must abort during takeoff.. books.google.it/…
    – user66974
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:16
  • 2
    @Rathony It appears to have just about the same meaning as "overshoot the mark," i.e. go beyond what is intended or acceptable. oxforddictionaries.com/pt/definição/inglês/…;
    – Elian
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:51
  • 2
    It may be just a variant of overshoot the mark, (fig.) to go or venture too far, or farther than is intended or is proper., (which has a very old origin) : 1588'Fraunce Lawiers Log. Ded., See how farre I have overshot my marke. 1670 Milton Hist. Eng. Wks. 1738 II. 5 In this, Diana overshot her Oracle. -
    – user66974
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 14:58
  • It's not an idiom; it's a metaphor. You are trying to land a plane and you aim for the runway, but you go past it.
    – Drew
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 21:11
  • Related is botch the landing, which could be gymnastics and not aviation.
    – stevesliva
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 4:21

5 Answers 5


As pjc and others have noted, it's a metaphor derived directly from aviation. A more common metaphor with practically the same meaning would be "missed the target". I think the speaker was trying to mean "overcompensated" in this case, in the sense of saying something true but which the audience was not receptive to or could not digest fully (rhetorically off).


"Overstated"? "Exaggerated"?

To "overshoot the runway" is a metaphor here. If someone does it with an aircraft, they've been careless, travelling too fast, or made a navigational mistake; resulting in going beyond the end of the runway.


There is a single, hyphenated term that's synonymous: over-egg

to spoil something by doing or adding more than is needed

Macmillan Dictionary

This comes from the idiom to over-egg the pudding, but in British English it's common for people to simply use over-egg on its own. See this Guardian article as an example.


Alternative idiom: If you cross the red line in a discurse, you should apologize for your verbal excess (people that cross the red line start behaving in a way that is not socially acceptable).


How about overreach, as seen previously here on Stack Exchange?