What does Balls to the Wall mean?
Balls to the wall is a slang expression for giving maximum effort, or travelling in maximum speed, similar to full throttle, originating from the same context.
What's the origin of Balls to the Wall?
The phrase stems from aviation, where the throttle levers usually ended with round ball-shaped tops, which had to be pushed up against the firewall in order to reach full throttle, hence pilots’ jargon referred to this motion as “balls to the wall”.
The phrase would appear in slang during the 1960’s.
Spread & Usage
How did Balls to the Wall spread?
During the 1970’s, the expression would spread in the United States and appear in Great Britain as well as other countries in the Anglophone world.
In 1984, the German heavy metal band, Accept released their single, titled “Balls to the Wall”.
A similar expression, though from a different source is balls-out which is also related to maximum speed and effort.
“Balls to the wall” was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2003.
1 thought on “Balls to the Wall”
I remember being told some 30 years ago, by my work supervisor, Alan, the origin of the term “balls to the wall”. According to Alan, it originated during, or possibly before WWII. As cited in your explanation, the aircraft had “balls” located on top of the throttle levers. And maximum power was reached when the “balls” were pushed forward towards the firewall, or “wall”. Normally when aircraft would take off, the throttles were pushed further forward, as the plane increased, speed while traveling down the runway. With the advent of U.S. Naval Carriers, the pilots would bring the engines up to maximum speed before being launched from a stand still. To do this, they began with the throttle lever “balls to the wall”.
I do not know that this is fact. I do believe it to be a plausible explanation. The first U.S. Aircraft Carrier was the USS Langley (CV-1) commissioned 20-MAR-22. At anytime following this, I can visualize pilots using the term “balls to the wall” as a reminder to newer pilots or a form of excited encouragement or motivation.