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

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

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

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