I have stumpled upon it in this video. It is at 37 seconds

Here are three sunken lands that might hold you over until the fish people turn up.

I have looked it up in a few dictionaries, but I still cannot make head nor tail of what it means in the sentence.

  • I see nothing confusing about the standard dictionary definition of the term. What is it about it that doesn't make sense? Oct 14, 2019 at 18:03
  • @JasonBassford Can you cite a dictionary definition that fits in this sentence? I can't find one in the OED, nor in the top few dictionary website results. Note that neither "to keep for future consideration or action; postpone" nor "to remain in possession or beyond the regular term" nor "to remain beyond the arranged period" (the three OED def'ns) can possibly work. Oct 14, 2019 at 23:57
  • @LukeSawczak I find nothing at all wrong with the normal use of postpone or defer as here. A snack that holds you over until dinner delays hunger until such time as it can be properly addressed (by a full meal). Tide over does the same thing, but it's simply synonymous. There's nothing wrong with hold over. Oct 15, 2019 at 4:39
  • @JasonBassford Intuition is all well and good, but it gets fuzzy in just such cases as these where there are similar expressions (hold sthg, tide sb over). And when two native speakers' intuitions disagree, intuition isn't much help. That's why I asked if you could find this sense in a dictionary. "Postpone hunger" isn't the same as "postpone you". Oct 15, 2019 at 8:38
  • @LukeSawczak Exactly the same thing could be said of tide you. (At least hold has some applicability with the word's normal meaning; tide makes little sense on its own.) You're simply replacing one phrase with another and saying that the other is correct because you like it more. Both do have dictionary definitions, and both do say roughly the same thing, There is no objective reason to pick one over the other. Oct 15, 2019 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


Unless there's a regional variation I haven't found in a dictionary yet, the speaker is slightly mixing their phrasal verbs. They mean tide over.

To tide someone over is to temporarily satisfy or support them, because something better is coming soon.

– Mom, I'm hungry. Can we have supper now?

– No, it's only 4. You can have a granola bar or a yogurt to tide you over till supper.

It's easy to see how a person might mix up these two expressions, since "hold over" has some overlap in the idea of "delay till later". But it doesn't quite mean the same thing (at least in my North American English).

  • Incidentally, "tide over" would have been a better image for the video, too :) Oct 14, 2019 at 12:32

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