trim one's sails, to(redirected from to trim one's sails)
trim one's sails
Modify one's stand, adapt to circumstances, as in His advisers told him to trim his sails before he alienated voters and bungled the election completely . This metaphoric expression alludes to adjusting a ship's sails to take full advantage of prevailing winds. [Late 1700s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
trim one's sails, to
To modify one’s stand, adapting it to circumstances. Trimming a boat’s sails means simply to adjust them so as to take advantage of current wind conditions. The term was transferred to human affairs by 1800 or so, but may be obsolescent today. Lytton Strachey used it in Elizabeth and Essex (1928): “Burghley, trimming his sails to the changing wind, thought it advisable to take the side of Essex.”
See also: trim
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer