Run around in circles

Learn the meaning of "run around in circles" and how to use this idiom to describe unproductive activity with Studycat.

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Run around in circles

Today, we’re lacing up our sneakers and getting ready to explore an idiom that might make you feel like you’re stuck on a never-ending merry-go-round.

When someone says they’re “running around in circles,” they’re not talking about a new fitness craze or a world record attempt for the longest circular jog. This dizzying phrase is all about feeling like you’re expending a lot of energy without actually getting anywhere.

So, let’s take a deep breath, find our balance, and dive into the meaning behind this spinning expression!

What does “run around in circles” mean?

Let’s say your child is working on a particularly tricky homework assignment, and they’ve been staring at the same problem for what feels like hours. They might throw their hands up in frustration and say, “I feel like I’m just running around in circles!”

When you use this idiom, you’re describing a situation where you’re putting in a lot of effort but not making any progress. It’s like you’re stuck in a loop, covering the same ground over and over again without getting any closer to your goal.

Where does “run around in circles” come from?

Now, let’s take a quick jog through history to uncover the origins of this loopy phrase. While the exact moment this idiom first started “running around” is a bit of a mystery, it’s believed to have emerged in the early 20th century.

One theory suggests that the phrase may have originated from the idea of animals, such as dogs, chasing their own tails. As they spin around and around, they appear to be exerting a lot of energy without actually getting anywhere.

Another possible origin story links the idiom to the concept of being lost or disoriented. When someone is lost in a forest or unfamiliar place, they might walk in circles trying to find their way out, ultimately ending up back where they started.

How to use “run around in circles”

Ready to take this idiom for a spin in your everyday conversations? Here are a few examples of how you can use “run around in circles” in various situations:

  • “I’ve been trying to solve this riddle for hours, but I feel like I’m just running around in circles!"
  • "We need to come up with a clear plan for the school project. Otherwise, we’ll just be running around in circles."
  • "I’ve been searching for my lost keys all morning, and I feel like I’m running around in circles. Can you help me retrace my steps?"
  • "Trying to navigate this bureaucratic process is like running around in circles. Every time I think I’m making progress, I end up back at square one!"
  • "Let’s take a step back and look at this problem from a different angle. We don’t want to keep running around in circles.”

Other ways to say “not making progress”

While “run around in circles” is a fun and visual way to describe a lack of progress, there are plenty of other phrases that convey a similar meaning:

  • Spin your wheels - When you’re “spinning your wheels,” you’re putting in effort but not getting anywhere, like a car stuck in mud.
  • Go around in circles - Similar to “run around in circles,” this phrase means to keep returning to the same point without making progress.
  • Beat your head against a wall - This idiom suggests that you’re repeatedly trying something without success, like banging your head against a wall.
  • Be at a standstill - When a situation is “at a standstill,” it means that no progress is being made, and things have come to a halt.
  • Be stuck in a rut - If you’re “stuck in a rut,” you’re in a fixed or repetitive pattern that is difficult to change or escape.

Fun ways to practice “run around in circles”

Let’s turn this idiom into a game that will have you spinning with laughter! Create an obstacle course in your backyard or living room that involves a lot of circular motion. Include activities like hula hooping, spinning in place, or running around a set of cones. As you navigate the dizzying course, take breaks to discuss how it feels to “run around in circles” both literally and figuratively.

Another idea is to play a game of “Circular Charades,” where players act out scenarios that involve “running around in circles.” For example, someone might pretend to be a dog chasing its tail or a person trying to solve a difficult puzzle. The other players must guess the situation and discuss how it relates to the idiom.

The phrase “run around in circles” is a lively and relatable way to describe a situation where you’re expending energy without making meaningful progress.

By understanding and using this idiom, your child will not only expand their vocabulary but also learn the importance of recognizing when they might be stuck in an unproductive loop. Remember, sometimes the best way to stop running around in circles is to take a step back, reassess, and find a new path forward!