I found an album named "Moving Mountains" and I was wondering how I was supposed to understand it. To me there are two meanings:

  • The action of moving mountains
  • Mountains that can move by themselves

How do I know which one they meant? Did they mean both? If they wanted to mean specifically one or the other, how should they do it?

  • 5
    The expression is often used to describe the accomplishment or challenge of an extremely difficult task. But without further context it's not possible to say. Jun 13, 2018 at 11:50
  • 2
    Are you a goat who teleports objects, or a goat being teleported? Can a goat being teleported teleport objects while being itself teleported? These are difficult questions of Zoology and Physics.
    – TimR
    Jun 13, 2018 at 11:56
  • @RonaldSole I know the expression, but there are mountains on the cover and they seem to imply it's the other one, but I can't know for sure. Jun 13, 2018 at 11:57
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    Just with those two words, you can't distinguish both meanings. As stated by Ronald, probably they are refering to "accomplish an extremely difficult task". If you found a video from that band with mountains with legs dancing or something, it's the second meaning. :-)
    – RubioRic
    Jun 13, 2018 at 11:59
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo My icon shows a goat on a TF2 teleporter, in the middle of being teleported :) But I get your point. I had the same problem with the phrase "family matters", I guess my brain isn't used to processing these kind of ambiguities and double meanings that seem to be more of an obligation than a choice Jun 13, 2018 at 12:00

1 Answer 1


"Moving mountains" is a common English expression, and it means the (figurative) action of moving a mountain.

The origin, I believe, is biblical, although there may well be similar proverbs found in other cultures too, and it is not considered to have any religious connotations when used in everyday speech.

It is used figuratively to refer to a seemingly impossible task, especially when it has been achieved. For example:

I moved mountains to be here

(perhaps after a difficult journey, or major readjustments to a personal schedule)

Of course, English is a wonderful language for making puns or deliberately causing duality of meaning. As this is the title of an album I cannot say for certain that the artists did not intend it to exclusively mean one or the other. Excuse the bawdy example, but this album by British punk band King Kurt used album cover art to illustrate one possible interpretation of the title, but it is clearly a double entendre and meant to sound rude.

  • The example you gave is not really related, it's just a pun on a noun that means two things.Those who really puzzle me are the ones where two words can be seen as either a verb with an object or a noun with a deverbal adjective. (Not that I don't understand them, but I'm not sure how they are perceived, as most native don't seem to find them ambiguous) Jun 13, 2018 at 13:28
  • I had a similar "problem" with "family matters", where it's not just a noun or a verb that mean two things, it's a word that can be a verb or a noun, and the other word has a completely different grammatical role depending on the case. Jun 13, 2018 at 13:30
  • It's is an idiom. That said, it can also be that a person is moved by mountains, But on its face, it does not mean: mountains move me emotionally.
    – Lambie
    Jun 13, 2018 at 13:32
  • @TeleportingGoat Sorry you don't think my example was related - I chose it because it is also an album title, and so "art" (if you can concede that King Kurt were artists) is involved. If you believe that absolutely no thought went into choosing the title "Moving Mountains" then you must assume it is the "common" meaning of the phrase. But to ask the question you must on some level suspect the artists could have meant it to be interpreted differently? In which case what is so different about the purposeful pun in my example?
    – Astralbee
    Jun 13, 2018 at 13:35
  • @Astralbee You're right, I missed that but the fact that they're both album titles does make them related, as most of the time the ambiguity comes from the lack of context, and titles (albums or not) are a good (?) source of ambiguity in that respect. When choosing the title I can assume that at least some use the lack of context to they advantage to make puns or title subject to interpretation. Jun 13, 2018 at 13:38

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