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build (something) on sand

To create, provide, or use an unstable or impermanent foundation for something, such as a building, business, or relationship. It is taken from a parable in the Bible (Matthew 7:24–27 and Luke 6:46–49) in which Jesus warns that those who do not follow Him build their lives as houses on sand, liable to be washed away by the elements. In hindsight, I guess our relationship was kind of built on sand, since we didn't really have much in common to begin with. Without proper financing, you'll end up building your business on sand!
See also: build, on, sand

build castles in the sky

To create dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible, unrealistic, or have very little chance of succeeding. You need sound financial advice and a strong plan if you're going to start your own business—don't just build castles in the sky.
See also: build, castle, sky

build castles in Spain

To create dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible, unrealistic, or have very little chance of succeeding. You need sound financial advice and a strong plan if you're going to start your own business—don't just build castles in Spain.
See also: build, castle, Spain

fools build houses and wise men live in them

It is so expensive to build a house that one cannot afford to build a house and also live there. I'm drawing up the plans for my dream house, and I can't stop thinking that fools build houses and wise men live in them.
See also: and, build, fool, house, live, men, wise

build a better mousetrap

to develop or invent something superior to a device that is widely used. (From the old saying, "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.") Harry thought he could build a better mousetrap, but everything he "invented" had already been thought of.
See also: better, build

build a case (against someone)

 and gather a case (against someone)
to put together the evidence needed to make a legal or disciplinary case against someone. The police easily built a case against the drunken driver. As soon as we gather the case against her, we can obtain a warrant to arrest her.
See also: build, case

build castles in the air

 and build castles in Spain
Fig. to daydream; to make plans that can never come true. Ann spends most of her time building castles in Spain. I really like to sit on the porch in the evening, just building castles in the air.
See also: air, build, castle

build down

[for traffic] to reduce in volume or diminish. At about six, the going-home traffic begins to build down. When traffic builds down, I leave for home.
See also: build, down

build one's hopes on someone or something

to make plans or have aspirations based on someone or something. I have built my hopes on making a success of this business. I built my hopes on John's presidency.
See also: build, hope, on

build on(to) something

 and build on
to add to something by constructing an extension. Do you plan to build onto this house? Yes, we are going to build on.
See also: build, on

build out onto something

to extend a building onto a particular space. We can build out onto the adjacent lot after we purchase it. We built out onto the area over the old patio.
See also: build, out

build someone into something

 and build someone in
to make a person an integral part of an organization or a plan. The mayor built his cronies into the organizational structure of the town. He built in his relatives as part of the administration.
See also: build

build someone or something up

 
1. Lit. to make someone or something bigger or stronger. Tom is lifting weights to build himself up for basketball. Tom needs to build up his upper body.
2. Fig. to advertise, praise, or promote someone or something. Theatrical agents work very hard to build up their clients. Advertising can build a product up so much that everyone will want it.
See also: build, up

build someone or something up (into someone or something)

to develop or advance someone or something into a particular [desirable] kind of person or thing. The publicity people built her up into a singer whom everyone looked forward to hearing. The agent built up the local band into a top national act.
See also: build, up

build someone or something up (into someone or something)

to develop or advance someone or something into a particular [desirable] kind of person or thing. The publicity people built her up into a singer whom everyone looked forward to hearing. The agent built up the local band into a top national act.
See also: build, up

build someone up (for something)

Fig. to prepare someone for something; to bring a person into a state of mind to accept some information. We built them up for the challenge they were to face. We had to build up the woman before breaking the bad news.
See also: build, up

build something into something

 and build something in 
1. to integrate a piece of furniture or an appliance into a building's construction. We will build this cupboard into the wall about here. We are going to build in a chest of drawers. Then we will build another one in.
2. to make a particular quality a basic part of something. We build quality into our cars before we put our name on them. We build in quality.
3. to make a special restriction or specification a part of the plan of something. I built the restriction into our agreement. The lawyer built in the requirement that payments be by certified check.
See also: build

build something on(to) something

 and build something on
to construct an extension onto a building. We are going to build a garage onto this side of the house. We will build on a new garage. The people next door are not going to build anything on.
See also: build, on

build something out of something

to construct something from parts or materials. She built a tower out of the blocks. They will build the bridge out of reinforced concrete.
See also: build, of, out

build (something) out over something

 and build (something) over something
to construct something so that it extends over something else, such as water or some architectural feature. We built a deck out over the pond. We built the deck over the pond.
See also: build, out

build something to order

to build an individual object according to a special set of specifications. I am having them build a new house to order—just for us. The car will be built to order.
See also: build, order

build something up

 
1. Lit. to add buildings to an area of land or a neighborhood. They are really building this area up. There is no more open space. They built up the area over the years.
2. Fig. to develop, accumulate, or increase something, such as wealth, business, goodwill, etc. I built this business up through hard work and hope. She built up a good business over the years.
3. Fig. to praise or exalt something; to exaggerate the virtues of something. The master of ceremonies built the act up so much that everyone was disappointed when they saw it. He built up the act too much.
See also: build, up

build something (up)on something

 
1. Lit. to construct something on the base of something else. (Upon is formal and less commonly used than on.) The ancients built their houses upon the houses of earlier people.
2. Fig. to add to and develop something that already exists. We have a good reputation and we must build on it. He has to build on his strong friendships with the customers.
See also: build, on

build up

to increase; to develop. The storm clouds are building up. Better close the windows.
See also: build, up

build up to something

 
1. [for a person] to lead up to something or advance to doing or saying something. I can tell you are building up to something. What is it?
2. [for a situation] to develop into something. The argument is building up to something unpleasant.
See also: build, up

build (up)on something

 
1. to construct something on a particular space. (Upon is more formal and less commonly used than on.) Are you going to build upon this land? Yes, we will build on it.
2. to start with something and add to it. (Upon is more formal and less commonly used than on.) Our progress has been good so far. Let's build on it. We will build upon the success of our forebears.
See also: build, on

*fire under someone

Fig. something that makes someone start doing something. (*Typically: build ~; light ~; start ~.) The teacher built a fire under the students, and they really started working. You had better light a fire under your staff. Either that or we will lay off some of them.
See also: fire

It is easier to tear down than to build up.

Prov. Destroying things is easier than building them. Jill: That poor politician—he served honestly and well for all those years and now his career is ruined by one little scandal. Jane: It is easier to tear down than to build up.
See also: build, down, easy, tear, up

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

build in something

also build something in
to include a feature when something is being put together You should build in some way to cancel the contract if things don't work out. Software developers built in a word processor.
See also: build

build something into something

to make a feature part of the design of something We have built new data security into the software design. The schedule has a lot of free time built into it.
See also: build

build on something

also build upon something
to add another thing to something that already exists In his new book he builds on his own discoveries, and he builds on current theory. The president is building upon the extraordinary commitment to volunteerism Americans have.
See also: build, on

light a fire under somebody

to make someone work better or harder It's time you lit a fire under those guys or they'll never finish painting the house.
See also: fire, light

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

build/get/work up a head of steam

to get enough energy, support, or enthusiasm to do something effectively
Usage notes: A head of steam is the pressure that is needed in the engine of an old-fashioned steam train to make it start moving.
In the last three months the campaign has built up a good head of steam.
See also: build, head, of, steam, up

light a fire under somebody

  (mainly American)
to make someone work better or harder It's time you lit a fire under those guys or they'll never finish painting the house.
See also: fire, light

build down

Reduce, diminish, as in Owing to increased vigilance, traffic in narcotics is finally building down. This term, the antonym of build up, came into use about 1980 with regard to reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons and soon was applied more widely.
See also: build, down

build in

Also, build into. Construct or include as an integral part; also, make automatic, concomitant, or inherent. For example, Frank Lloyd Wright liked to build in as much furniture as possible, not just bookcases but desks, tables, and the like , or We've got to build some slack into the schedule for this project. The literal usage referring to physical objects dates from the late 1920s. The figurative arose a decade or so later. Both are frequently used in past participle form, that is, built in.
See also: build

build on

Also, build upon. Add as an extension; use as a basis or foundation. For example, They decided to build on an addition, or She was building all her hopes on passing the exam. John Locke had this idiom in his treatise on government (1689): "Sovereignty built on 'property' . . . comes to nothing." [Late 1600s]
See also: build, on

build on sand

Use an unstable foundation, as in If you buy nothing but high-risk stocks, your portfolio will be built on sand. This metaphor appears in the New Testament, where Jesus likens those who do not heed his sayings to a foolish man who builds his house on sand, which then is washed away by rain, flood, and wind (Matthew 7:24-27). [c. 1600]
See also: build, on, sand

build up

1. Fill an area with houses or other buildings, urbanize. For example, We want to protect the wetlands against those who want to build up the area. [c. 1400]
2. Gradually develop, increase in stages. For example, I want to build up my endurance for the race. [Early 1700s]
3. Accumulate or collect, as in A lot of rust has built up on the farm machinery. [Mid-1900s]
4. Increase, strengthen, develop toward, as in The sound built up until it was nearly deafening, or His argument was building up to a grand climax. [c. 1930]
5. Establish or enhance a reputation; praise or flatter. For example, Months before the official campaign could begin, they had been building up the senator's image . [c. 1930]
See also: build, up

light a fire under

Also, build a fire under. Urge or goad to action, as in If we don't light a fire under that committee, they'll never do any work. This hyperbolic colloquialism uses light in the sense of "ignite," a usage dating from the mid-1100s.
See also: fire, light

build around

v.
1. To construct or develop something that surrounds or avoids something else: They built the highway around the center of town. If we build a fence around the plants, the goats won't be able to eat them.
2. To develop something based on someone or something: The story is built around two characters. I built my bookstore around the idea that people like to browse before they buy anything.
See also: around, build

build in

v.
To construct or include something as an integral part of another thing: When you install the new bathroom, make sure to build in a towel rack. We didn't add shelves to the wall; we built them in when we constructed the house.
See also: build

build into

v.
To make something or someone an integral part of something: We built overhead lights into the ceiling. The president is building you into the framework of the company.
See also: build

build on

or build upon
v.
1. To construct something on the base of something else: She wants to build a new house on that hill. The pioneer built a small cabin upon the plain.
2. To use something as a basis or foundation on which to develop something else: The company built its hiring policy on the principle of fairness. The efficiency of our department is built on hard work.
See also: build, on

build up

v.
1. To develop or increase something in stages or by degrees: I'm building up my endurance for the big race by running every day. We built the family business up over many years.
2. To accumulate, collect or increase: Sediment is building up on the riverbank.
3. To become bigger, stronger, or bulkier, especially through exercise: I need to build up if I'm going to make the football team this year.
4. To bolster something: The company plans to build up their new product with a big advertising campaign. The interview went well and built up my hopes for getting the job.
5. To fill some region with buildings: There was a forest here before they started building up the area. The developer bought the farmland and built it up.
See also: build, up

build on sand

To provide with an unstable foundation: Having bought only high-risk stocks, my portfolio was built on sand.
See also: build, on, sand

light a fire under

To urge or move to action.
See also: fire, light
References in classic literature ?
Quarry some stones with those great swords of yours, and help me to build a city.
The five soldiers grumbled a little, and muttered that it was their business to overthrow cities, not to build them up.
A notable exception was the Vermont Builds Greener certification system.
The might of a corporation lingers in the monuments it builds long after it has gone.
Common Ground, a non-profit agency that builds and develops affordable housing, is using the design-build system for its restoration of the Prince George Ballroom on East 28th Street, which is being coordinated by Beyer Blinder Belle.
It takes a lot of research to stay on top of the game and design along these lines," notes Austin-based architect Peter Pfeiffer, who is on the board of Casa Verde, a firm that builds low-income green housing in Austin.
Year-long series of events supports reading, playground builds, environment and the friendship teddy bears provide
By automating a best practices build, developers and administrators gain the advantage of consistent "one-click" builds with comprehensive audit trails or "promotion histories.
Champ's purple patch heart is a symbol of Nikki and Champ builds on her legacy, providing encouragement to all kids who must deal with difficult challenges.
Champ's purple patch heart is a symbol of Nikki, and this new bear builds on her legacy and provides encouragement to all kids like her that so bravely deal with what life gives them.
com) builds on more than a century of breakthrough innovation and client success using collaborative R&D.
Unlike manual processes for performing application builds, Teamstudio Build Manager is designed to automatically configure applications so they can be moved to the next stage of development, providing a secure gateway between development, QA and production.
The day began on August 5 with Steve Bartlett, President and CEO of The Financial Services Roundtable, presenting Roland Lewis, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity New York, with a grant check for $52,500 made possible by all of the financial services companies participating in the New York City builds.
Their product build times are growing and they need to run literally thousands of builds every week," said John Graham-Cumming, Chief Scientist at Electric Cloud.
1 accelerates builds 10 - 20 times by distributing the software build in parallel across scalable clusters of inexpensive, industry-standard servers.