I need to know the reason why the idiom "bend over backwards" has the meaning of "To work very hard to accomplish something for someone".

He will bend over backwards to help you.

enter image description here

we usually bend over forward when we work hard, because we need hands.

Why does the idiom use "backwards" instead of "forwards"?

1 Answer 1


Bending forward is not a hard thing to do, we do it all the time, when we pick up things etc. On the contrary, bending backwards is quite hard, unless you are agile. The idiom itself originated from gymnastics. From the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms:

bend over backwards

Also, lean over backwards. Exert oneself to the fullest extent, as in Dad bent over backwards so as not to embarrass Stasia's new boyfriend. This phrase transfers the gymnastic feat of a backbend to taking a great deal of trouble for someone or something.

  • Thank you. yeah, you are right. Bending over backwards is so hard like the above picture. :)
    – GT Kim
    Mar 1, 2016 at 10:40
  • The link is inaccessible (to me). Does the AHD offer some proof that it originated with gymnastics? Mar 1, 2016 at 13:37
  • @TRomano I would be surprised if there would be any kind of proof in a dictionary, it wouldn't be that concise. The provide the timeframe only - [c. 1920].
    – Vilmar
    Mar 1, 2016 at 13:44

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