Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to bridge: Bridge game
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!

a bridge too far

An act or plan whose ambition overreaches its capability, resulting in or potentially leading to difficulty or failure. Taken from the 1974 book A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan, which details the Allies' disastrous attempts to capture German-controlled bridges in the Netherlands during World War II. The multi-million-dollar purchase of the small startup proved a bridge too far for the social media company, as the added revenue couldn't make up for the cost in the end.
See also: bridge, far

cross that bridge later

To deal with a problem, issue, or situation at another point in time. It is recommended especially when the issue is not problematic at the moment. A: "Users might not like having their personal data given to advertisers." B: "We'll cross that bridge later, let's just get the website up and running for now.
See also: bridge, cross, later

Don't cross that bridge till you come to it.

Do not needlessly worry yourself over concerns, problems, or difficulties that lie in the future. I'm not sure why you're so concerned about how to write a thesis for your degree—it's over a year away, so don't cross that bridge until you come to it! I know you're worried about the mortgage payment in January, but don't cross that bridge till you come to it.
See also: bridge, come, cross, till

bridge over something

to make a bridge or passage over something. They bridged over each of the streams as they came to them. I think we can bridge over this little river in a few days if we work hard.
See also: bridge

bridge the gap

1. Lit. to make a bridge that reaches across a space. The engineers decided to bridge the gap with a wooden structure.
2. Fig. to do or create something that will serve temporarily. We can bridge the gap with a few temporary employees.
See also: bridge, gap

burn one's bridges

 (behind one)
1. Lit. to cutoff the way back to where you came from, making it impossible to retreat. The army, which had burned its bridges behind it, couldn't go back. By blowing up the road, the spies had burned their bridges behind them.
2. Fig. to act unpleasantly in a situation that you are leaving, ensuring that you'll never be welcome to return. If you get mad and quit your job, you'll be burning your bridges behind you. No sense burning your bridges. Be polite and leave quietly.
3. Fig. to make decisions that cannot be changed in the future. If you drop out of school now, you'll be burning your bridges behind you. You're too young to burn your bridges that way.
See also: bridge, burn

burn one's bridges in front of (one)

Fig. to create future problems for oneself. (A play on burn one's bridges (behind one).) I made a mistake again. I always seem to burn my bridges in front of me. I accidentally insulted a math teacher whom I will have to take a course from next semester. I am burning my bridges in front of me.
See also: bridge, burn, front, of

cross a bridge before one comes to it

 and cross that bridge before one comes to it
Fig. to worry excessively about something before it happens. (Note the variations in the examples. See also cross that bridge when one comes to it.) There is no sense in crossing that bridge before you come to it. She's always crossing bridges before coming to them. She needs to learn to relax.
See also: before, bridge, come, cross, one

cross that bridge when one comes to it

Fig. to delay worrying about something that might happen until it actually does happen. (Usually used in the phrase, "Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," a way of telling someone not to worry about something that has not happened yet. Alan: Where will we stop tonight? Jane: At the next town. Alan: What if all the hotels are full? Jane: Let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
See also: bridge, come, cross, one

water over the dam

 and water under the bridge
Fig. past and unchangeable events. Your quarrel with Lena is water over the dam; now you ought to concentrate on getting along with her. George and I were friends once, but that's all water under the bridge now.
See also: dam, water

cross that bridge when you come to it

to not worry about a possible problem until it becomes an actual problem I might need a lawyer, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Usage notes: also used in the form cross the bridge or cross a bridge (to begin to deal with a problem): We crossed the bridge when we decided we needed to discuss these issues.
See also: bridge, come, cross

build bridges

to increase understanding between different people or groups They wanted to build bridges and believed that an international conference would be the best way to start that process.
See also: bridge, build

burn your bridges

to permanently and unpleasantly end your relationship with a person or organization Welles had burned his bridges so badly with the movie studios that they laughed when you mentioned his name.
Etymology: based on the military action of burning a bridge you have just crossed to prevent the enemy from crossing it after you
See also: bridge, burn

bridge the gap

to make a connection where there is a great difference He promises to change the tax laws to bridge the gap between the rich and poor.
Usage notes: often used with between, as in the example
See also: bridge, gap

water under the bridge

something that has happened and cannot be changed I should probably have asked for more money when I was offered the job, but hey, that's water under the bridge now.
See also: bridge, water

build bridges

to improve relationships between people who are very different or do not like each other (often + between ) A local charity is working to build bridges between different ethnic groups in the area.
See build up a head of steam
See also: bridge, build

burn your boats

  (British & Australian) also burn your bridges (British, American & Australian)
to do something that makes it impossible for you to change your plans and go back to the situation you were in before She didn't want to burn her boats by asking for a divorce, so she suggested a trial separation instead. I'd already burned my bridges with my previous employer by publicly criticizing their products.
See burn fingers
See also: boat, burn

I'll/We'll cross that bridge when I/we come to it.

something that you say in order to tell someone that you will not worry about a possible problem but will deal with it if it happens 'What if the flight is delayed?' 'I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.'
See cross fingers
See also: bridge, come, cross

be like painting the Forth Bridge

if repairing or improving something is like painting the Forth Bridge, it takes such a long time that by the time you have finished doing it, you have to start again
Usage notes: The Forth Bridge is a very large bridge in Edinburgh.
Home improvements are a bit like painting the Forth Bridge. By the time you've finished the kitchen, the bathroom needs decorating and so it goes on.
See also: bridge, forth, like, painting

be water under the bridge

  (British, American & Australian) also be water over the dam (American)
if a problem or an unpleasant situation is water under the bridge, it happened a long time ago and no one is upset about it now We certainly had our disagreements in the past, but that's all water under the bridge now.
See of the first water, could talk under water, blow out of the water, hold water, test the water, tread water
See also: bridge, water

burn one's bridges

Also, burn one's boats. Commit oneself to an irreversible course. For example, Denouncing one's boss in a written resignation means one has burned one's bridges, or Turning down one job before you have another amounts to burning your boats. Both versions of this idiom allude to ancient military tactics, when troops would cross a body of water and then burn the bridge or boats they had used both to prevent retreat and to foil a pursuing enemy. [Late 1800s] Also see cross the rubicon.
See also: bridge, burn

cross a bridge when one comes to it

Also, cross that bridge when you come to it. Deal with a situation when, and not before, it occurs. For example, If we can't sell the house-well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. The ultimate origin of this proverb, a caution not to anticipate trouble and often put as don't cross a bridge till you come to it, has been lost. The earliest recorded use is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Golden Legend (1851): "Don't cross the bridge till you come to it, is a proverb old and of excellent wit."
See also: bridge, come, cross, one

water over the dam

Also, water under the bridge. Something that is over and done with, especially an unfortunate occurrence. For example, Last year's problems with delivery are water over the dam, or Never mind that old quarrel; that's water under the bridge. These metaphoric phrases allude to water that has flowed over a spillway or under a bridge and thus is gone forever. The first term was first recorded in 1797; the variant dates from the late 1800s.
See also: dam, water

burn (one's) bridges

To eliminate the possibility of return or retreat.
See also: bridge, burn

water under the bridge

A past occurrence, especially something unfortunate, that cannot be undone or rectified: All that is now just water under the bridge.
See also: bridge, water
References in classic literature ?
Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found.
No, my dear; but if your Black Beauty had not been wiser than we were we should all have been carried down the river at the wooden bridge.
She uttered a piercing shriek so that the mountains re-echoed with the sound of it, and the terrified pair had hardly dared to look out from their hiding-place when the enraged woman, with her dress and hair flying in the wind, hurried over the bridge of clouds.
Then the major and the grenadier, the general and his wife, remained almost alone on the river bank, a few steps from the spot where the bridge had been.
Since the railway bridge was built my people at my village have ceased to love me; and that is breaking my heart.
An empty boat means very little; he hasn't been seen to land on either bank, and he's walked off the bridge without walking on to it, so to speak.
The ponderous stone Bridge of Sighs crosses it at the second story--a bridge that is a covered tunnel-- you can not be seen when you walk in it.
For the spectator who arrived, panting, upon that pinnacle, it was first a dazzling confusing view of roofs, chimneys, streets, bridges, places, spires, bell towers.
Yes, please do," answered the general, and he repeated the order that had already once been given in detail: "and tell the hussars that they are to cross last and to fire the bridge as I ordered; and the inflammable material on the bridge must be reinspected.
Guph saw there was no room for him to pass the alligator on the narrow bridge, so he called out to it:
A short distance away lookouts were set, their task being to watch the lighted ends of the bridge.
There's a meeting of British engineers, and I'm doing another bridge in Canada, you know.
Across the gulf was a narrow bridge of rock, and at the other end of the bridge was an arched opening that led into the mountain.
The old stone bridge which spanned the stream was within a hundred yards of me; the setting sun still tinged the swift-flowing water under the arches with its red and dying light.
They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole.