When we use the phrase the water's edge are we referring to the water from the vantage point of the land? Can a person in a rowboat, while he is in the middle of a lake, say "I am now going to bring the boat to the water's edge"?

P.S. I ask this question in the spirit of the conversation between Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, where Ford is trying to explain to Conrad the difference between penniless and without a penny.

Edit: I'm not referring to the figurative use of the term as in "politics ends at the water's edge"

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    I always took it literally; as in where the water meets land (i.e. the shore)
    – Inazuma
    Mar 30, 2016 at 9:08
  • With no implied vantage point?
    – TRomano
    Mar 30, 2016 at 9:10
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    I'd have said it's from the vantage point of the land, Tim. What else does the water share an edge with? Mar 30, 2016 at 9:12
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    @NVZ - the problem is that a literal meaning of "water's edge" would be GR.
    – user66974
    Mar 30, 2016 at 9:57
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    @TimRomano - not my downvote, but I do think the question is unclear. Checking with Ngram, the expression appears to be used more in the figurative sense. books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – user66974
    Mar 30, 2016 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


The water's edge is the edge of the water. It doesn't matter which direction you approach that boundary from.

There is an issue with the verb bring which is dealt with in another question: "Bring" vs. "take" in American English

  • Yes.. edge: a rim or brink: the edge of a cliff. thefreedictionary.com/edge
    – user66974
    Mar 30, 2016 at 10:27
  • Interesting - I think "the edge of a cliff" must be from the land side rather than the air side, although it could be the top of the cliff or the bottom. Mar 30, 2016 at 10:41
  • @James The bird flew over and landed on the edge of the cliff.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 30, 2016 at 10:44
  • One could argue, I think, that there is no "edge" for where the cliff meets air, rather it is an entire surface. Compare that to a shoreline, where there is a clear line.
    – Inazuma
    Mar 30, 2016 at 10:47
  • @Inazuma I live near cliffs. Believe me, there is a defined edge which it's possible to go over! But all this talk of cliffs is rather beside the point and I anticipate these comments will be removed.
    – Andrew Leach
    Mar 30, 2016 at 11:03

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