Take in Stride

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A reader is curious about the expression “to take in stride”:

What exactly does it mean and where does the expression come from?

The verb stride is one of those lovely old words to survive from Old English.

As an intransitive verb, stride means “to walk with long or extended steps.” The word connotes confidence and purpose. The past tense is strode; the past participle is stridden.

The word is frequent in tales of knighthood:

From out of the forest strides Merlin, dramatic, cape flowing…

When [the Green Knight] came to the water he would not wade it, but sprang over with the pole of his axe and strode boldly over the brent that was white with snow.

The White Knight had stridden confidently forward, armor glinting in the sun…

Stride is alive and well in contemporary contexts:

From the start there was something about Woods’ air of invincibility that rubbed me the wrong way as I watched him stride down a fairway.

It was a case of playing for pride when The Reds strode out onto the field for the final metro of the spring season.

The verb bestride is not much used by modern writers, but can be found in literature. It means “to straddle or to step across.” For example, one bestrides a horse.

A victor bestrides his enemy as he stands above him with a foot at each side of the prostrate body.

Cassius vividly describes the ambitious Caesar as a giant standing high above ordinary people:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.

As a noun, stride refers to a long step taken in walking:

Having a longer stride can give you the edge you need when it comes to competing in a race. 

In late 2007, the crossing [of Ladd Creek] was simply a long stride from one large rock to another.

Idioms like “take in stride” are based on the noun. Here are the most common:

to take in stride: to accept advances or setbacks as normal, to be dealt with as they arise. The image is of a person walking along without stopping for distractions. Examples:

Successful traders take losses in stride.

There was a time when Americans took political cartoons in stride

Paul Ryan takes fame and hecklers in stride.

to get into stride/to hit one’s stride: to reach a comfortable and efficient pace.

Runners use this idiom in a literal sense to refer to getting into stride before reaching their optimum pace.

Figuratively, it refers to the process of settling into a new job or situation. Examples:

But Higuain is not the only striker who has struggled to get into his stride in front of goal in this tournament.
How Long Did It Take To Hit Your Stride?

to make strides: to make progress

Lauvao making strides as he adjusts to Washington’s offense

Future MBAs Make Career Strides

to break stride: to deviate from a steady pace while walking, running, or marching. This is another sports term that may be used literally. Figuratively, “to break stride” would be to pause or stop whatever one is doing.

Paper blowing across the track can cause a horse to break stride.

Rocco followed with a spiel that I clocked at five minutes and that never broke stride or, to my ear, approached coherence.

to put off stride: to cause someone to deviate from a steady stride or movement in sports; to interfere with someone’s expected progress; to disconcert.

The horse left his feet and was thrown off stride for a brief time.
We like people who can laugh at themselves, who can find something risible in the news, and who may put an opponent off stride with some anecdotal jibes.

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5 thoughts on “Take in Stride”

  1. In Australia there is a vernacular use of stride as a noun – to refer to slacks or long pants. It’s mostly fallen out of use but was common up until the 1970s.

    When I was at Bible College, I took a newly arrived student from Wales for a sightseeing tour of Sydney Harbour after the first evening meal we had at singles’ quarters. I said, “After tea [dinner] I’ll put on me strides and take you out to see the Harbour.”

    He had no idea what I was saying and I was surprised that Aussie vernacular was as foreign to a Welshman as to an American. Having said that, I’ve since discovered that I’m the only Aussie I know who persists in using the term for long pants.

  2. Yes, “to break stride” can mean to change the rhythm of one’s walking, such as by a marching band or a formation of soldiers, Marines, or airmen.
    Such breaking stride can be quite important when crossing bridges.

  3. In one of her romance novels, Australian writer Lucy Walker ( a pseudonym used by Dorothy McClemans) explains how to measure, cut, and sew a pair of “strides.” No pattern needed. The instructions were so good, I think I could have followed them and sewn a pair of strides for myself.

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