What Does Across The Board Mean?

Across the Board Meaning              

Definition: Applying to everyone in a group

Origin of Across the Board

Originally, this expression applied to horseraces. If a person wanted to bet on a horse to win first, second, and third place, this meant that the person was betting across the board.

In other words, this bet would ensure that if the horse won any of these positions, the bettor could collect a winning. Board refers to the notice board that lists all of the horses and their positions.

In the 1900s people began using this expression figuratively. Instead of meaning the same horse for all winning positions, it mean something would apply to all people.

Examples of Across the Board

what is the meaning of across the boardHere is an example of a math professor and her students using the expression.

Student: Hey! I can’t believe I failed this test. And all my friends failed it too. It was way too difficult.

Teacher: Please calm down. I’d like to address the whole class. Yes, this test was very difficult. No one passed.

Student: That’s not fair!

Teacher: I know. That’s way I’m going to curve the grade. That means that all students can add 40 percentage points to their grade.

Student: Did you say that all of us can add 40%?

Teacher: Yes. I’m implementing this point increase across the board. It applies to all the students in this class.

Student: Thank goodness!

across the board idiomIn this example, two friends are discussing recent layoffs.

Monica: Want to grab something to eat?

Janice: I would normally be happy to, but I’ll have to pass tonight.

Monica: Why? What’s wrong?

Janice: I’m worried I’m about to get laid off, so I’m trying to save money.

Monica: Why do you say that?

Janice: The CEO just made an announcement that the whole company has to lay off 50% of employees across the board.

Monica: Are you sure it will affect your department?

Janice: Yeah, he specifically said that it would affect every department.

More Examples

This excerpt is about one government entity that had its budget cut, along with many other government entities.

  • The Pentagon long has complained about the effects of the so-called sequestration across-the-board spending cuts that were part of a 2011 budget deal with Congress that were intended to be so unpalatable they would never be enacted. –LA Times

The second example is from an article about increasing plus size clothing choices at fashion shows.

  • “I think it’s about time that larger sizes are represented in presentations during fashion week,” said Tricia Smith, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s and designer apparel. “We don’t view it any differently than the need to be more inclusive across the board, whether it is ethnicity, size or body type and I hope it continues.” –LA Times


The phrase across the board means affecting everyone equally. It emphasizes that a rule or benefit will apply to a whole group, as opposed to specific individuals.