What Does Leaps and Bounds Mean?

By Leaps and Bounds Meaning

Definition: Moving forward in surprisingly large and rapid steps.

 This idiom means that progress is made quickly in big strides, rather than slowly and steadily. It is often said with a hint of surprise, as if no one expected the progress to go so quickly or so far.

The phrase implies that perhaps the normal steps of progression were sidestepped, and the growth instead leaped over certain stages and moved ahead more quickly than normal.

Origin of By Leaps and Bounds

Leaps and bounds definition Leaps and bounds mean essentially the same thing and are used together to emphasize the strides that are being taken. They have been paired since the early 1700s, though early sources are hard to come by. We can see variations of the phrase in the 1837 Western Courier from Ravenna, Ohio:

  • The noble animal gave a leap, one bound, and as the blood gushed in torrents from his breast, staggered and fell.

We can see other 19th-century examples from an 1838 copy of The Native American:

  • We do not turn over the musty manuscript of the hoary past— but we leap and bound along with the swift current, swifter than ever…
  • …he looked at you, and your very soul bounded and leaped beneath the swimming glance of the philosopher.

Examples of By Leaps and Bounds

Meaning of leaps and bounds In the modern day, people use leaps and bounds to talk about progress that has happened surprisingly quickly. British English speakers tend to use the preposition in, as in,

  • Since Susie started studying every night, her test scores have gone up in leaps and bounds.

American English speakers lean towards by, as in,

  • Our company has grown by leaps and bounds in the past two years.

More Examples

  • Of course, if it had not been free, the digital age would not have grown by leaps and bounds. –Business Record

Summary

To move or grow by leaps and bounds is to progress in giant, rapid steps. It is usually short-lived but huge progress is made in that time.