on the sidelines


Also found in: Financial.

on the sidelines

not actively involved in something The majority of Western countries decided to stay on the sidelines during the crisis.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of sidelines (the lines that mark the outer edges of a playing field)
See also: on, sideline

on the sidelines

Observing rather than taking part, out of the action, as in Bolivia's neighbors remained on the sidelines, waiting to see which faction in the dispute would prevail . This idiom comes from sports. The sidelines are the two lines defining the sides of the court or playing field and the area immediately beyond them where, in such sports as football, the non-playing team members sit. [First half of 1900s]
See also: on, sideline