1

I am wondering what does "off" mean in following sentence:

"This year, production is off to a slow start; only five vehicles are manufactured each hour."

Does it mean that the production is beginning with a slow start? Or does it mean something else?

Thank you in advance, and have a great day.

2

Off here is being used in adjective sense 2a from www.m-w.com:

2a : started on the way

You could consider it to be short for "moving off of the starting line of a race track" (because the race has begun).

In fact, the most idiomatic expression for this usage generally IS at a race track, when the race starts; you'll often hear the announcer say "Aaaaand they're off!"

So when you're off to a slow start, it means you have begun something, but are doing poorly in comparison to either your opponents or to your expectations. (Conversely, you might "get off to a good start or a fast start" if you are doing better than expected at the beginning of your effort.)

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