What is the meaning of "make all the lights" here?

A: Do you think I will take more than 10 minutes going to the train station?
B:Well, if you want to get there in ten, you will have to make all the lights.

I know the meaning of "make light" but not "make all the lights".

  • Please cite your source. Try and include a link, too.
    – Kris
    Jan 29, 2019 at 9:20
  • ...traffic lights. Jan 29, 2019 at 21:05

3 Answers 3


"Make all the lights" means not having to stop at any red lights throughout a trip. To "make a light" in this instance is to make it through an intersection without having to stop at a red light. So if you make all the lights, you won't have to stop at all, and you'll make good time!

In answer to Kris' question:

I don't have a reliable reference to be able to say decisively whether it's slang or an idiom. I don't know if it appears in respectable writing. It's often used in onscreen dialogue (e.g. FullhouseS01E19, ninth line). And it has an entry in Urban Dictionary. Its usage is similar to other idioms (e.g. Make-the-cut)

  • Is that an idiom? Is it slang? Is it some dialect of English? Are there use cases in respectable writing?
    – Kris
    Jan 29, 2019 at 9:20
  • I added my response to this question in the original answer above.
    – Jack
    Jan 29, 2019 at 13:11
  • 3
    I would call it an idiom.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 29, 2019 at 13:19
  • Also @HotLicks If it's on UD, it's most likely slang. And UD is no authetic source to cite from on ELU, AFAIK.
    – Kris
    Jan 30, 2019 at 6:54
  • @Kris - I didn't mention UD, but it's commonly cited here, and rarely is questioned. But "make all the lights" I've been familiar with since I was a kid (and that was a looong time ago).
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 30, 2019 at 13:09

To make the light means to drive through or go through (if someone else is driving) a traffic light when it is green or yellow.

To make all the lights means to do this for all the traffic lights on your way somewhere, or in a series of lights on one street.

I also don't have resources. It's not a major phrase used all the time, but I would say it's an idiom and is more slang than respectable. It's more often something we say than write, unless it's in a story of some kind. In writing a non-fiction description, you would write something like

"In order to arrive at place X from place Z in ten minutes, you/one must not be stopped at any of the traffic lights in between."


"Well , if you want to get there in ten, you will have to make all the lights."


This is make in the sense of reaching or attaining a location; as OALD has it:

  1. [no passive] make something to manage to reach or go to a place or position

    Do you think we'll make Dover by 12?
    I'm sorry I couldn't make your party last night.
    He'll never make (= get a place in) *the team. * The story made (= appeared on) the front pages of the national newspapers.
    We just managed to make the deadline (= to finish something in time).

To make a light in the example given refers to a traffic light, specifically to pass every traffic light on the route while it is green, by implication, without delay. I might have said make all the greens.

According to the OED, this is an extension of make in the broad sense of performing or accomplishing something. Related are the nautical use of make referring to achieving an intended destination (e.g. to make port, make Liverpool) or speed (she'll make twenty knots). You might need to leave early to make your flight (i.e. arrive at the airport in time to catch your flight), and hope you make the grade (or make the cut) at the job interview, and then you'll have made it—that is, achieved success, whether in life (she's finally made it) or in some challenge or task (she's made it through boot camp).

  • I'm only ever familiar with make it to (a place, an event, a destination), not with its breath saving-version make. And with make as in "make the grade". "She made it through the bootcamp", certainly not "She made the bootcamp".
    – Kris
    Jan 31, 2019 at 8:20
  • @Kris I do say things like we need to make Pittsburgh by noon, but I'll grant that it's a little old-fashioned or literary, and make it to Pittsburgh is more common conversationally, likewise we made it to every game vs. we made every game. I wouldn't say she made bootcamp because bootcamp is a starting point, not a station or rank, but I do say things like she made vice president at 30 all the time.
    – choster
    Jan 31, 2019 at 13:12

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