English Idiom – Back to square one.

Meaning – To start again. If you go back to square one you go back to where you started, having made no progress. To start working on a plan from the beginning because your previous attempt to do something failed.

It is likely that this phrase originated from the popular board game Snakes and Ladders. In this game you start at square one and move through the board towards the end or goal. During the game if you land on a snake you are forced to move back, and you can even fall back to square one. Here you have to start again and all of your previous progress is gone.


When could you use this idiom?

  • A project you are working on has major problems and you’ve decided to start again.
  • You rebuilt something but it doesn’t work so you need to take it apart and rebuild from the beginning.
  • You failed an important exam and need to start learning the information required to pass the exam again.
  • A relationship has failed and you need to start dating again!


  • “Jack broke up with me last night. I can’t believe it is over after 7 years. I guess it is back to square one in the dating game for me!”

In The News:

May’s Resignation means Brexit is Back to Square One


  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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