(1) Support for environmental issues cuts across traditional party lines. (Cambridge dictionary)
(2) opinion on European integration still cuts clean across party lines (Collins dictionary)

Are both examples’ ‘cuts across’ equivalent to ‘is contrary to’ or ‘is against’?

  • 2
    No, these two have different meanings. In (1), cuts across could be glossed as "be shared among the parties".
    – Kinzle B
    Sep 13, 2014 at 14:25
  • 1
    The short answer is that cuts across contrasts with follows. A vote that does not follow party lines cuts across those lines (i.e., is independent of party affiliation).
    – Drew
    Sep 13, 2014 at 16:50
  • 1
    Aha! Now I see why you were asking! Sep 14, 2014 at 3:33
  • @StoneyB Yes, that’s what. Today’s chart is the combination, as always is, of your persuasive knack and intuition. Thank you. And here is the very useful words that I needed, just now printed for perusal. By the way, is this chart from your own drawing?
    – Listenever
    Sep 14, 2014 at 4:04
  • Yes, that was the fun part! Sep 14, 2014 at 4:29

1 Answer 1


Both involve the same metaphor of cutting across existing natural lines of cleavage, as when we speak of cutting across the grain of wood or meat:

Across the grain
The flank steak image is from theenchantedcook.blogspot.com, the saw image is from cmtutensili.com.

When we speak of issues or votes cutting across party lines we understand 'party lines' to be the 'lines' which divide the parties. On most issues people's attitudes follow party lines: With party lines
But some issues divide differently: they cut across party lines: Across party lines Note that the 'party lines' we speak of here are not the same thing as 'the party line': the official position a party takes on a particular issue and its rhetorical 'line' of argument for supporting it. When an issue cuts across party lines it is not (necessarily) contrary to the parties' positions on the issue; it is 'contrary to' the usual lines of division between parties.


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