"Go pear shaped" (The plan isn't working / plan is going wrong)

Might I trouble you for helping me to understand why/how "go pear shaped" has the meaning like that? Could it be British people disliking a pear, which is delicious?


1 Answer 1


There are many colorful expressions in English whose origins are lost to time, and this is one of them. The Oxford English Dictionary apparently attributes this to an RAF expression, but doesn't explain what might have inspired the expression.

As a result, there are many guesses as to its origin, but no one knows if any are correct.

More guesses

In all likelihood, this has nothing to do with the fruit, but rather plays off of the expectation of something being round, but instead having it be an odd shape.

This kind of oddity is not uncommon with English idioms. Consider

She's the apple of my eye (she is someone I cherish).

As it turns out, this is from a passage in the Bible (or at least one common English translation from the Hebrew), but still it makes little sense without explanation.

  • Might I enquire of you an additional question? Would you tell me what "play off" means in the context? I looked it up in dictionaries. It has several meanings. The meaning in the context I guess is: "to react to or interact with, as in a drama." Please correct me if I am wrong.
    – JYJ
    Feb 18, 2019 at 6:19

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