Straight and Narrow is a popular idiomatic expression, used to refer to a virtuous, morally acceptable lifestyle.
It is a very frequently used phrase, with several variations and allusions found in other colloquialisms, such as Scared Straight, which is a method of inducing a fear so intense in someone – usually children – that they remain “Straight and Narrow.”
The expression is mostly used by authority figures, like parents, policemen, and lawyers, raising awareness in others to keep their behavior in check.
Although the exact origin of “Straight and Narrow” is not entirely clear, a likely source can be found in the Bible, in Matthew 7:14, which goes: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
The phrase itself began appearing in English during the 1600s, in various books and plays, already in the contemporary sense of leading a virtuous, acceptable life.
In the decades following the turn of the 17th century, the popularity of “Straight and Narrow” increased rapidly, appearing in a large number of manuscripts, novels, poems and plays.
By the 1700s, it was already an established expression, both in the United States, as well as Great Britain. Its use never really died out, as it is one of the most popular phrases for conducting oneself properly.
Today, it can be encountered in print, as well as everyday conversations, movies, TV shows, as well as music.
A recent 2023 song, released by Sam Barber is titled “Straight and Narrow.”