Going Through the Motions


What does Going Through the Motions mean?

Going through the motions is a popular colloquial expression used to refer to unenthusiastic workers, who carry out their duty without care or passion.

Someone who is “going through the motions” is doing their job without paying attention to the fine details, just doing the required moves in a broad and disinterested manner.


What's the origin of Going Through the Motions?

The expression first emerged in the beginning of the 1800’s, initially in England, quickly adopted in the United States as well.

“Going through the motions” is tied closely to the appearance of industrialized factory work, which required laborers to perform monotonous tasks for long periods of time day after day.

Someone disillusioned in their seemingly senseless and tedious job at a manufacturing plant would quickly lose their motivation to perform their task carefully and would begin “going through the motions” in a short span of time.

Spread & Usage

How did Going Through the Motions spread?

The phrase would see widespread use in the 20th century, as well as the 21st, turning into an idiomatic expression, understood by most.

“Going through the motions” would appear in the title of several songs by artists and bands such as Blue Öyster Cult, Kansas as well as Aimee Mann.

It was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2008.

External resources

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