Connect the dots and join the dots

  • Connect the dots and join the dots are idioms that came into use in the twentieth century. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as up a creek without a paddle, don’t count your chickens, barking up the wrong tree and piece of cake, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the phrases connect the dots and join the dots, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.


    Connect the dots and join the dots mean to put various facts and ideas together in order to see the whole picture or to understand something globally. When someone connects the dots, he gathers all the data available in order to come to a conclusion. The idioms connect the dots and join the dots are twentieth century phrases taken from a type of puzzle invented sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. In a connect-the-dots puzzle or join-the-dots puzzle, various numbered dots are arranged across the page in a seemingly random fashion. However, when the participant connects the dots a drawing appears. This is an appropriate metaphor for not “seeing” the whole picture until one connects all the dots appropriately. If one misses one dot, the picture will not emerge in its entirety. Connect-the-dots puzzles are especially popular with children, as it helps teach them to count. Connect the dots is primarily the American version of the idiom, and join the dots is primarily the British form of the idiom. Note that when used as an adjective before a noun to mean the game, the terms are often hyphenated as in connect-the-dots and join-the-dots. Related terms are connects the dots, connected the dots, connecting the dots.



    Great leaders also connect the dots and help people see the big picture about how any one piece of information relates to the purpose of their work and the goals of the company. (Forbes Magazine)

    Given that these unions constitute only 15 per cent of B.C.’s construction workforce, it’s easy to connect the dots. (The Journal of Commerce)

    I joined the staff at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities in October to advance the work of connecting the dots between farms, food and health. (The Traverse City Record-Eagle)

    Bowden connected the dots and correctly identified the White Sox as a team with plenty of money to spend and plenty of top prospects in the pipeline. (The Chicago Daily Herald)


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