I came across the expression ‘to wing it’ in a reading passage.


While some owners let their untrained chickens wing it, others try to get their chickens into competition shape with daily sprints during the months leading up to the race.


Clues from the context helped me to get its meaning: If you wing it, you do something without preparation. But where does the expression originate from? A couple of searches led me to two websites where the etymology is available.


Birds have wings. Aeroplanes have wings too. In a theatre, the two sides of the stage are called wings too. We can understand the connection between a bird’s wings and the wings of the stage. When an actor has to go on stage and perform without preparation, he wings it. The idea is that he practises his lines at a wing of the stage. Also when he is acting, a prompter, who stands at a wing of the stage, might help him recall the lines.


Another explanation simply goes that the expression has something to do with young birds. When a baby bird has grown up, ready to fly the nest, it will have to try its wings. Therefore the first time it flies, it wings it. This explanation is plausible too.


Here are the links to the two etymology websites:


Online Etymology Dictionary


The Phrase Finder


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