Go back to square one


      • starting over
        To return to the beginning of a process or situation, often because the current approach is not working or has failed.

      • back to the drawing board
        To start from the very beginning, usually due to the failure of a previous attempt.

    Examples of Go back to square one

    • After spending months on a complex project, the team hit a roadblock and had to go back to square one.

      This idiom means to start over from the beginning, as if returning to the starting point of a game or activity. It is often used in situations where progress has been halted or a mistake has been made, requiring the need to start again.


    The idiom "go back to square one" has two main meanings, both of which involve starting over or returning to the beginning of a process or situation. The first usage is often used to describe a situation where the current plan or approach is not working, and it is necessary to try again from the start. The second meaning, "back to the drawing board," is often used to express the need to start from scratch after a failed attempt.

    In both cases, the intention is to convey the idea of starting anew, whether it be for practical purposes or as a way to emphasize the difficulties or setbacks faced. This idiom is commonly used in everyday conversation and can be applied to a wide range of situations, from personal projects to business endeavors.

    Origin of "Go back to square one"

    The origin of the idiom "go back to square one" is not entirely clear, but there are a few theories about its possible origins. One popular theory is that it originated from the early days of radio broadcasting in the UK, where the football (soccer) games were divided into squares on a grid to help listeners visualize the game. When a team needed to start over, the commentator would say, "back to square one." This theory is supported by the fact that the phrase was first recorded in a British newspaper in 1935.

    Another theory suggests that the idiom comes from the game of Snakes and Ladders, where players must return to the first square if they land on a snake. However, this theory has been disputed as there is no record of the phrase being used in this context before the 1950s.

    Regardless of its exact origin, the idiom "go back to square one" has become a popular expression in the English language, and its meaning is widely understood by native speakers. It is often used to convey the idea of starting over and serves as a reminder that sometimes, we must go back to the beginning to achieve success.