Long Pole In The Tent


What does Long Pole In The Tent mean?

The expression long pole in the tent is used to describe the longest, hardest, and most critical part of a task that needs to be done.

Additionally, it can refer to somebody or something that is delaying a task.


What's the origin of Long Pole In The Tent?

The phrase’s origin is not entirely certain, some believe that it comes from engineering, others say it’s a term that can be connected to aviation.

A very popular and maybe the most logical explanation, however, is that the expression comes from hiking and the activity of setting up a tent.

This suggests that it was originally used as a metaphor, as the longest pole in a tent is the one that has to bear the most weight, and will determine the height of the tent, making it the perfect analogy to a heavy task.

Spread & Usage

How did Long Pole In The Tent spread?

In conclusion, this expression is quite versatile, and can be applied in a variety of situations that involve challenges or heavy tasks.

The term is often featured in business-related books and literature, like in Ron Sturgeon’s 2005 book Green Weenies and Due Diligence: Insider Business Jargon.

More interesting stuff

1 thought on “Long Pole In The Tent”

  1. The phrase ‘long pole in the tent’ was used a lot in the UK military when I went through training in 1987 and it may even be an idiom from WW2 era. When one put up the old-style wooden tents, the first pole assembled was the long pole that forms the ridge of the tent. As a team you work inside the tent to assemble the longest pole, after which you can add support legs to the two ‘V’s to raise the ridge pole and the canvas one step at a time until the whole tent can be secured. So when you have a problem to solve, the essential first step is to identify the long pole in the tent.


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