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 Vol. 7, No. 12 

December 2005


~ Page 5 ~

"Full Steam Ahead!"

By Louis Rushmore

Image "Full steam ahead" is an idiom. An idiom is "an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself... in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements" (Merriam-Webster). In other words, an idiom is a figurative expression that has a meaning that goes beyond the individual words that comprise it. The idiom "full steam ahead" means "with all possible energy and enthusiasm" (Free Dictionary) or "[a]s fast and as strongly as possible" ( The "[e]tymology" [historical development of words] for this phrase is "based on the literal use of full steam in ships, which makes them go at their top speed" (Free Dictionary) and "allude[s] to the steam engine, where full steam signifies that a boiler has developed maximum pressure" (

Purportedly, the expression "full steam ahead" was made famous in 1864 by Admiral David Glasgow Farragut at the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay.

In 1864, David Farragut [of the Union] was assigned the task of securing Mobile Bay, the center of Confederate blockade-running. The area was protected by formidable fortifications and the bay was heavily mined (mines at that time were known as torpedoes). On August 5, 1864, Farragut gave the order to ignore the risks: [With  mild profanity respecting] "...the torpedoes!"... he said, "Full steam ahead!" The modest Confederate fleet was defeated and the forts surrendered shortly thereafter. ("Civil War")

"The engagement on Mobile Bay was the preeminent naval action of the Civil War" ("Civil War"), or in other words, it was "the most important naval action of the Civil War" ("David G. Farragut").

Admiral Farragut gave America the idiom "Full Steam Ahead!" The idiom "Full Steam Ahead" appears in the literature of virtually every type of organization, as a simple Internet search for the words "full steam ahead" readily discloses. Every group that hopes to succeed at its mission must proceed "with all possible energy and enthusiasm" (Free Dictionary) or "[a]s fast and as strongly as possible" ( The Lord's church is no exception.

In the Old Testament, faithfulness to God required whole-heart religion. "But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (Deuteronomy 4:29). "Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart" (Psalm 119:2). "With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments" (Psalm 119:10). "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). Investing one's whole heart into the service of God returns spiritual prosperity (2 Chronicles 31:21).

In the New Testament, "Jesus said...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 30:6). Whole-heart religion today derives from loving no one and nothing more than Jesus (Matthew 10:37). Whole-heart religion today results in seeking the kingdom of God first before any material consideration (Matthew 6:33) and in being "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). The idiom "full steam ahead!" without reservation or restraint certainly applies to the church for which Jesus died, over which he is the head and for which he will return to retrieve (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Colossians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Brethren, "Full Steam Ahead!" Amen.Image

Works Cited

"Civil War, The: Battle of Mobile Bay." Online Highways. 3 Jan. 2006 <>.

"David G. Farragut." Online Highways. 3 Jan. 2006 <>.

"Full Steam Ahead." Answers Corporation. 3 Jan. 2006 <>.

"Full Steam Ahead." Free Dictionary, The. Farlex, Inc. 3 Jan. 2006 <>.

Merriam-Webster, I. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1993. CD-ROM. Bellingham: Logos, 1996.

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