Since exactly when did the word "landslide" started being used in context of depicting anything huge (but especially margins) apart from it's literal meaning and sense.

Especially when did this "by a landslide" phrase came into existence ?

I've searched through Google a bit, but no info yet about it's origin or etymology where it begin to depict anything huge or by very large margins.

Does anyone have any ideas?

2 Answers 2


The first metaphoric usage appears to be in politics, from which probably its more general use:

Landslide in the political sense "lopsided electoral victory" is attested from 1888.


Google Books earlier usages refers to political contexts.

According to MacMillan Dictionary Blog :

The term landslide originally referred to a significant fall of earth or rock down a steep slope. It was not long – in fact about fifty years – before the word was co-opted by those writing about politics to refer to a crushing election victory in which the winners obtain such a large majority as to effectively obliterate the losers. What started as a metaphor soon became a standard meaning and a landslide today is as likely to be political as physical. The earlier term ‘landslip‘ did not take the same linguistic course, and is only used literally. It is also much less frequently used today than landslide. The most common noun collocate of landslide by far is ‘victory’, with landslide acting as a modifier in the expression ‘landslide victory’.

  • Is it worth adding that the metaphor of landslides is particularly apt to election victories, as a graphic image of a great and sudden movement of the ground, as it were changing the political landscape?
    – Tuffy
    Dec 25, 2022 at 23:43

The first occurrence of this word was in politics in the 1850s. As mentioned in the Grammarist:

A landslide, in political terms, is a victory that is overwhelming, a victory in which the candidate receives an overwhelming majority of the votes. Exactly what percentage of votes a candidate must receive to be considered the recipient of a landslide victory is up for debate. The literal meaning of landslide is a rapid downward trajectory of a great amount of soil and rock; the term has evolved from the British term, landslip. The expression landslide to mean an overwhelming political victory seems to have first been used in the 1850s to describe the American presidential race between John Fremont and James Buchanan.

Example usage:

He won the election by a landslide.


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