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What does “safe and sound” mean — for example, home safe and sound?

You may use “safe and sound” to describe anything from a situation of physical security to a task that has been executed successfully.

Cecilia Gigliotti
Cecilia Gigliotti

The meaning of “safe and sound,” as you can probably guess, alerts the listener to two aspects of the object being discussed: its safety and its soundness. That is, if a person has made it home safe and sound, we can interpret it to mean that they are unharmed (no bodily harm has been done to them on their way home) and healthy or well (that they are in a “sound” state of mind).

But the context for the phrase can often be metaphorical in addition to literal. So, when an English speaker uses the phrase “safe and sound,” what might a non-native speaker deduce that they are referring to?

How to use “safe and sound”

You may use “safe and sound” to describe anything from a situation of physical security to a task that has been executed successfully. For instance, if your chosen context is, “Did the document I sent reach you safe and sound?” you are obviously not referring to a state of corporeal well-being (unless you’ve sent the document by carrier pigeon) but to the fact that the document is in your colleague’s inbox, complete and legible and ready to be worked with. The essence remains unchanged.

Examples:

Everyone got to the hotel safe and sound.
The key will be safe and sound in this pocket.
Let’s set up under the awning, that way we’ll be safe and sound in case it rains.

Is “safe and sound” a cliché?

As with many idioms and expressions, there is a certain hackneyed or trite quality to the phrase “safe and sound.” On the flip side of that coin, the expression is clichéd because of its basis in truth. It’s a reliable phrase that conveys meaning without needing further explanation, so don’t feel self-conscious about using it.

Examples of using “safe and sound expression”

Carol (2015)
Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
The Martian (2015)
Idioms & expressionsEnglish

Cecilia Gigliotti

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