The phrase “Throwing out the window” often conjures images of dramatic dismissals or radical changes. We’ve all heard it, perhaps chuckled or nodded in understanding. In this blog post, we’re not just skimming the surface but delving deep into the origins and evolution of this captivating idiom. Tracing its journey through centuries, we’ll uncover how it morphed from literal action to metaphorical significance, adapting and evolving in usage and meaning. Understanding this phrase’s rich context and historical significance will offer a fascinating glimpse into its steadfast presence in our language today. So, prepare to embark on a linguistic adventure as we throw open the window to the past. 

The Origin

The phrase “thrown out the window” finds its first recorded use in the 16th century, a time markedly different in terms of architectural design and urban living standards compared to today. Back then, buildings were often starkly utilitarian, with very few windows. These windows were both scarce and diminutive and challenging to operate, a stark contrast to the large, easily accessible windows we are accustomed to today. During these times, it was common for people in many European cities to throw waste out of their windows.  

The phrase “throwing out the window” captures more than just a literal action; it reflects a historical context where urban living was still grappling with the concepts of cleanliness, public health, and environmental awareness, which have become crucial in modern urban development and planning. This historical snapshot also highlights the evolution of architectural styles and urban living, reminding us how far we have come to create more sustainable and health-conscious living environments.

Transformation Of The Idiom Through Histories

During the religious conflicts that swept Europe in the early 17th century, people would be involved in violent disputes with each other. It was common for people in such disputes to throw objects (and sometimes others) out of windows to demonstrate their anger and frustration with each other.

From then on, the phrase “throwing out of the window” became synonymous with violent uprisings and struggles for power. It also started to take on a more symbolic meaning, describing situations where people would get rid of things they no longer wanted or needed dramatically and forcefully.

As time progressed, the meaning of the phrase changed. It came to be associated with throwing away something valuable or important. For example, “throwing caution to the wind” means taking risks or behaving recklessly and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” meant to get rid of something valuable along with something worthless.

As time passed, the phrase evolved, taking on new meanings and uses. For instance, in the 19th century, it was used to describe someone losing their mind or becoming irrational, with the image of objects flying out of a window representing the loss of control over one’s thoughts. In contemporary times, we use it more generally to describe situations where people are getting rid of things they no longer want or need, whether that’s physical objects, ideas, or relationships.

Transformation Of The Idiom Across Cultures

The idiom “throwing out the window” has undergone various transformations and interpretations in different cultures. In Spain, the phrase “throw out the window” is synonymous with divorce, meaning when someone gets divorced, everything that belonged to their ex-partner is thrown out of the window. In Portugal, “throwing out the window” is associated with financial ruin.

The phrase “throwing out the window” has taken on new interpretations and meanings in contemporary times. It is commonly used to describe someone who disregards rules, protocols, or expectations. For example, a student who decided to skip classes and not study for their final exams is “throwing their education out of the window.” It can also describe someone giving up on a task or goal, such as “throwing in the towel.”


The phrase “throwing out the window” might seem like a simple idiom, but it has a rich and fascinating history that spans centuries. From its earliest origins as a representation of violent conflicts to its more modern incarnation as a metaphor, it has evolved in intriguing ways that reflect societal changes over time. Understanding the origins and evolution of idioms is essential to appreciate their relevance in our language today. “Throwing out the window” is an excellent example of an idiom that has undergone historical and cultural changes. This phrase reminds us of the importance of being mindful of our words and how the meaning of language can change over time.