set (one's) shoulder to the wheel(redirected from they set their shoulders to the wheel)
set (one's) shoulder to the wheel
To make a sustained, concentrated, and vigorous effort; to work very hard and diligently. After I was nearly expelled in my first year of college, I decided to stop fooling around, set my shoulder to the wheel, and get as much out of my degree as I could. I know that the new deadline is tight, but if everyone sets their shoulders to the wheel, I know we can get it done in time!
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
shoulder to the wheel, to put/set one's
To make a determined effort, to work hard. This allusion to pushing a bogged-down cart dates from the early seventeenth century. Robert Burton used it in The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621): “Like him in Aesop . . . he whipt his horses withal, and put his shoulder to the wheel.” Only in the eighteenth century was it extended to any kind of hard work, as in Madame d’Arblay’s diary entry (June 1792): “We must all put our shoulders to the wheel.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer