keep your eye on the ball idiom

Keep your eye on the ball

Keep your eye on the ball

Keep your eye on the ball is an English idiom used to express the need to concentrate in order to achieve something.


keep your eye on the ball meanings include –

To remain focused on your task or goal.

Do not be distracted from what you are doing.

To be alert or pay attention.

To remain thinking about an important thing.


Example sentences

When you go to college remember to keep your eye on the ball and study as hard as you can.

If the company keeps its eye on the ball it is going to be very successful.

You need to keep your eye on the ball in this line of business if you want to get ahead.

Make sure to keep your eye on the ball at the meeting tonight, some big decisions are going to be made.

Don’t listen to what they say, keep your eye on the ball and everything will work out fine.

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Keep your eye on the ball origin

This idiom is often thought to have originated from sports where players must watch the ball carefully as they play and compete. Baseball is commonly cited as the saying’s origin although there are some early references from the British game of rounders.

Another theory of the saying’s origin is from flying aircraft. Pilots use a slip indicator, this gauge helps them to determine how balanced an aircraft’s turning is to prevent a plane from going into a spin. The gauge has a ball that must be kept centred between 2 points, hence pilots must keep their eyes on the ball to fly safely.

There is also merit to the idea that the idiom originated from the Ball Watch company. In 1891 a fatal head-on train collision in Ohio, USA was caused by a conductor’s watch stopping for 4 minutes. This prompted a review of the train systems and a certain Webster Clay Ball was appointed as an inspector for the train line’s time and watch systems.

As a jeweller, W. C. Ball Introduced strict watch and time standards that also successfully expanded into Canada and parts of Mexico. Under Ball’s standards, all railroad worker’s watches had to be accurate to within 30 seconds each week and were tested fortnightly. Ball’s jewellery business also flourished and became the Ball Watch Company. Train conductors and engineers up and down North America were then “on the ball” or on time.

It seems logical that train drivers looking at their watches would be keeping their eye on the ball but I am yet to find any direct evidence or quotes to show that this is true.

Related idioms

This idiom is often shortened to “on the ball” which has a similar meaning. On the ball does differ slightly in that it can also mean to be competent or to understand a situation clearly. We might say that a person who is doing their job very well is on the ball. If someone is tired, lacking in focus or doesn’t understand they are not on the ball.

The idiom “take your eyes off the ball” has the opposite meaning of to lose focus or become distracted.

To keep your eye on something is to watch it carefully. You might ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your home while you are away, you might also keep an eye on your finances in order to save money.

To keep your eyes peeled means to watch out for something. The peeled refers to your eyelids being peeled back and as such your eyes are open. This can also be said as to keep an eye out for something, or to keep your eyes open.

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