13

I thought the expression was "to search from land to sea" but according to Google, I'm wrong.

What's the correct expression?

Example sentence:

After searching his jacket __, he gave up hope.

  • 13
    "Searching his jacket" means looking in all the pockets for something, "Searching for his jacket" means looking for his jacket. I suspect you mean the second, since "searching in his jacket from land to sea" is something of mixed metaphor. – Peter Shor Jul 1 '17 at 12:24
  • 5
    There are some good words here. Another is scour (it has another sense beyond "clean"). – Steve Lovell Jul 1 '17 at 12:28

11 Answers 11

39

Search high and low (for something):

to try very hard to find something look high and low (for something)

  • Janet searched high and low, but she couldn't find the kitten and finally had to ask the man.

(Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms)

  • 1
    As a native (US) speaker, I find this phrase very... quaint -- almost antiquated. It's quite familiar and I'll definitely know what the speaker means, but it would not feel natural to me and would cause me to wonder whether the speaker had recently consulted their Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms for inspiration. The same is true for many of these -- in casual conversation I'd prefer single word constructions over searching "every nook and cranny", or looking "hither and yon", "high and low", "land and sea", "high and low", "heaven and earth"... .. . – A C Jul 3 '17 at 22:53
  • "Hunting high and low" is a common phrase in British English. There's also a song by the band A-ha. But I don't think you'd use it for searching through a jacket. – RedSonja Jul 5 '17 at 6:13
45

To search every nook and cranny.

From Cambridge Dictionary:

Every nook and cranny – every part of a place.

If you want to use this with the object of a search, you need to use prepositions:

After searching for his jacket in every nook and cranny ...
After searching every nook and cranny for his jacket ...

  • Can I use this indoors? – Ludi Jul 1 '17 at 13:34
  • 4
    You can use it indoors. – Peter Shor Jul 1 '17 at 14:46
  • 1
    I have also heard "nook and corner", which Cambridge says is an Indian English variant (which is probably why I heard it). – muru Jul 3 '17 at 1:54
  • 2
    Depending on the circumstances, one may instead search every crook and nanny. – Jeremy Jul 3 '17 at 11:50
32

Option 1

Another equally good word for it is, I think, the verb to comb:

3 Search carefully and systematically.


Option 2

But the best way in which you can express the thoroughness of your search is, in my opinion, the phrase to leave no stone unturned, which is also idiomatically appropriate for your quest:

Try every possible course of action in order to achieve something.

  • 5
    " … with a fine-toothed comb " is another one – WGroleau Jul 1 '17 at 13:47
  • 1
    youtu.be/MtkK3eijBso – Jörg W Mittag Jul 2 '17 at 8:43
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    +1 for "Leave no stone unturned". That's the one that came to my mind first. – David Jul 2 '17 at 12:47
25

In computer science we often use the term Exhaustive Search

  • 5
    +1. For the fill-in-the-blank OP sentence: After searching his jacket exhaustively,... – Drew Jul 1 '17 at 22:46
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    I don't think this usage is unique to the computer world, and it's definitely the first thing I thought of. (...and then the computer scientist in me wondered if it's a breadth-first or depth-first search, whether it needs to preserve ordering among equal elements, and what the big-O of the OP's exhaustive search algorithm might be...) – A C Jul 3 '17 at 22:42
  • ... where n is the number of pockets ... – Erty Seidohl Jul 4 '17 at 20:48
14

One idiom for this is

The auditors went over the records with a fine-toothed comb.

This is most appropriate when you want to emphasize that the search paid attention to fine details. For example, when searching for some missing papers you didn't just glance over the bookshelf for missing papers, but you checked between every pair of books, or even flipped through each book.


Fine-tooth comb

an attitude or system of thorough searching or scrutinizing

(google search seems to indicate that both "fine-toothed" and "fine-tooth" are used)

10

Although all top google searches listed for this option are related to the Pokémon theme song, I believe "to search far and wide” could also be used in this situation.

After searching far and wide for his jacket, he gave up hope.

Although, it may not be the very best (like no-one ever was).

8

"Everywhere" or "Looked/Searched everywhere"

After looking everywhere for his jacket, he gave up hope.

or

After searching everywhere for his jacket, he gave up hope.

is probably normal usage.

Closest I can think of to your "from land to sea" would probably be "over hill and dale" but that's not common usage - and certainly not describing something indoors.

Despite searching over hill and dale, they couldn't find a suitable campsite.

3

Thoroughly would fit well in the sentence as written.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/thoroughly.

This also implies that the search was rigorous and complete.

2

"He searched his jacket inside and out, he gave up hope."

As he has searched both his inside and outside pockets.

1

A similar wording often used for missing planes or people is to search on land and sea.

Example from a news story:

Philippine forces searched on land and sea Thursday but were unable to find any sign...

1

Left no stone unturned

Turned the place upside down

Went through with a fine tooth comp

did a complete search

and of course from compsci : Conducted an exhaustive search

protected by tchrist Jul 4 '17 at 18:06

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