Often I encounter with the following constraction in some articles

Someone put defeat behind him

Don't undestand the meaning of this whole phrase. Does it mean that someone succeed or failed?

  • To "put something behind you", means that you decide, to all intents, to forget about it, and focus your mind on the future. – WS2 Feb 9 '16 at 23:35
  • @WS2 thanks for your reply. I tried find tips seeking in vocabulary for defeat behind and put defeat but did not guess that the key could be put....behind – DotNetter Feb 9 '16 at 23:50

Someone who has 'put defeat behind them' has suffered a defeat, and is no longer troubled by, or regretful of, the outcome.

This is a common metaphor in English. In this metaphor, the past and future are opposite directions, and you can face and move towards either the past or the future. If you put defeat behind you, you're moving away from it, towards 'the future', instead of staying with it.

'Putting the past behind you' is another English idiom relying on the same metaphor.


To "put defeat behind" is to leave it in the past, where it belongs.

Defeats are inevitable, but they need not defeat us in the present. The wise person simply prepares himself or herself for the next battle by learning from the mistakes which may have led to an earlier defeat.

Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, experienced plenty of defeat and tragedy in his relatively short life, but he did manage to be elected twice to the highest political office in the land. Plagued by depression for a good deal of his life, Lincoln could easily have given up on life, but he didn't. His endurance and stick-to-it-iveness saw him through many defeats, and this was in an era in which anti-depressants had not yet been discovered!

In short, Lincoln, I'd say, was adept at putting defeat behind him.

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