trim (one's) sails

trim (one's) sails

1. To adapt oneself to new or altered circumstances. Following the attack, many politicians trimmed their sails and adopted a more aggressive stance on military action.
2. To spend less money; to decrease one's expenses. Our rent is much higher, so we've had to trim our sails a bit, but we love living in this area.
See also: sail, trim
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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]
See also: sail, trim
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 your sails

make changes to suit your new circumstances.
Literally, trim a sail means ‘adjust the sail of a boat to take advantage of the wind’.
See also: sail, trim
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

ˌtrim your ˈsails


1 arrange the sails of a boat to suit the wind so that the boat moves faster
2 reduce your costs: Increasingly, businesses are having to trim their sails in order to survive.
See also: sail, trim
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
See also: