The phrase originates from car windows which used to have manual handles, which need to be turned to lower the window, hence to 'wind' a window down.

I heard the phrase the other day, but the car in question had electric windows. Is it OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows, or is there a newer phrase?

  • Anything is okay if it gets the message across! :) But, yeah, to say "wind" when there is no crank seems out of place. So, I agree with @user3169 about using some alternative verbs in this situation. Or even: Could you put my window up--the wind is blowing in too much and messing up my hair?
    – user6951
    Mar 16, 2015 at 18:55
  • 4
    And here I thought you were going to ask about "an electric car's window" vs "an electric car window" vs "the window of an electric car" vs "power windows"
    – Jim
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:25
  • i've managed to come up with 'slide'
    – JMP
    Mar 17, 2015 at 6:48
  • 3
    Don't you still hang up the phone? These things are fairly common in most languages - perhaps you can think of an example in your native tongue!
    – Sanchises
    Mar 17, 2015 at 9:38

5 Answers 5


There's nothing wrong with "wind" in this case. There are plenty of situations where we use a word that refers to an obsolete technology:

  • we dial a phone number, which makes the other person's phone ring; we hang up at the end of the call;
  • we listen to internet radio stations (though I suppose that's almost correct, if you're using wifi);
  • we carbon copy emails;
  • diesel-powered ships sail around the world.
  • not sure if this is the same thing, but aeroplanes still 'take off'?
    – JMP
    Mar 17, 2015 at 10:28
  • 3
    @JonMarkPerry That doesn't seem to be the same thing: what obsolete technology does that refer to? (E.g., "dial a phone number" refers to telephones using a rotary dial before they had keypads.) Mar 17, 2015 at 10:43
  • 2
    @JonMarkPerry "Is it OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows, or is there a newer phrase?" Yes, it is OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows. Mar 17, 2015 at 13:11
  • 3
    We do still "wind down" car windows, even when they're electric - we just use a (hidden) motor to help with the winding :-)
    – psmears
    Mar 17, 2015 at 13:38
  • 1
    For another example of obsolete usage persisting, we turn lights on and off, or shut them off: from the gas light era where there was a valve controlling the flow of gas. IIRC other languages also talk about opening and closing lights in their own idioms.
    – Random832
    Mar 17, 2015 at 16:51

Personally, I still say, "Roll down your window," even though I have never owned a car with manual windows. That is the phrase I always used growing up, so I still use it now. (I am 28). Everyone knows what I mean, and I don't think it sounds strange. Technically, there is a motor inside the car that is spinning and rolling the windows down, even if you are just pushing a button, right?

I live in the Midwest, but people in other parts of America may say "wind down", instead of "roll down".

If you wanted to use another phrase, I would go with "open" and "close".

  • 5
    My impression is that roll down is the usual phrase in American English and wind down is British. Mar 16, 2015 at 21:07
  • 4
    I've lived from California to Maine. AFAIK, "roll up/down" is standard in the US.
    – Zimul8r
    Mar 16, 2015 at 22:03
  • 7
    +1: "Roll down" is the idiomatic way (AmE) to talk about lowering a car's window, and it simply doesn't matter that it's no longer literal. See also: "rewind" to go back to an earlier point in a movie on DVD, "hang up" the phone, anything that you "turn on", "turn down" the volume... Mar 17, 2015 at 1:29
  • 2
    ... "write" an email, type or even worse dictate a "manuscript", perhaps arguably "drive" a car (literally-speaking you drive the horses, and they pull the carriage, but it's called driving a carriage by an obvious figurative connection). On my stereo I can still literally "turn down" the volume, it's a rotating analogue control, but I can also push a button on the remote and a motor turns it for me, much like the window :-) Mar 17, 2015 at 2:19
  • @BrianHitchcock I was responding to a now-deleted comment that seemed to be suggesting that English is only spoken in the USA. Mar 18, 2015 at 9:18

I would use:

Would you raise/lower your window?

or simply:

Would you close/open your window?

Since you can't see how the mechanism operates, you should just use visual observation terms.

  • I should use whatever I want to use, as long as my listener or reader will understand. :| Mar 17, 2015 at 2:09

You can also say:

Would you put your window down/up?

  • 1
    That gets the message across but it doesn't sound very natural to me (British native speaker). Mar 17, 2015 at 9:27
  • 1
    Definitely a US thing.
    – Zimul8r
    Mar 17, 2015 at 19:52
  • @Zimul8r not at all a US thing! No one I know says that, nor do I hear it in the popular media. Americans mostly say "roll up/down" or "open/close".
    – Rob K
    Jul 5, 2017 at 20:58

I think to say " turn the window down or up" as of turning your signal on or off would go with electric windows as you are in a same way turning a switch on or off. Both winding or Rolling do refer to windows with manual cranking handles.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .