Glossary Home Idioms

Extend an olive branch

“Extend an olive branch” is used when someone wants to end a confrontation or an argument.

“Extend an olive branch” is a phrase with a long history, stretching back to Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. Today, the olive branch is a nearly universal symbol of peace, similar to the dove. If someone extends an olive branch, they’re looking for peace, not war. Unlike some English idioms and proverbs, this one is easily translated and used in other languages. But, if someone is unfamiliar with it, it’s going to be hard to understand without the applicable context.

Extend an olive branch definition and meaning

 

Meaning of “Extend an olive branch”

“Extend an olive branch” is used when someone wants to end a confrontation or an argument. One person or group might offer up this saying as a way of suggesting that they want to come to a peaceful resolution of a conflict or find some common point they can agree on. As a symbol of peace, the image of an olive branch (and even historically an actual olive branch) can be helpful in ending a conflict.

 

When To Use “Extend an olive branch”

It’s possible to use “extend an olive branch” in a variety of situations. It can be used when friends are arguing, enemies are fighting, or even when a broader, more serious conflict is occurring. One of two leaders might decide to extend an olive branch to stop a war, or a friend might use the phrase to stop a fight. One person might say to another, “it’s time for this to stop. I’m extending an olive branch.” Without actually doing what they’re physically saying, the person is suggesting that it’s time for them both to stop fighting.

 

Example Sentences with “Extend an olive branch”

  • Hey, hold on a second! I’m here extending an olive branch.
  • I really want this all to end. I’m ready to extend an olive branch.
  • How much longer is this going to go on before one of you extends an olive branch?
  • Haven’t either of you heard about an olive branch? That’s what is needed right about now.

 

Why Do Writers Use “Extend an olive branch?”

Writers use “extend an olive branch” in the same way that one might use it in everyday speech. Sue to the rather halting nature of this phrase, it has to be used in the right way by a skilled writer for it to feel natural. More often than not, a writer may choose to use the olive branch as a symbol rather than use the entire phrase itself. Perhaps they put an olive branch or olive tree into a scene of resolution. Or, alternatively, have a character mention it but not use the whole phrase.

 

Origins of “Extend an olive branch”

An “olive branch” is historically regarded as a symbol of peace or victory, stretching back to Ancient Greece and Egypt. Although it is most commonly associated with Greece, there are prior origins in Egypt many centuries prior. In Greece, olive branches were used by supplicants to show their status when visiting temples or approaching people of a higher rank. There are instances in which the olive branch appeared in Greek mythology, such as in a competition between Athena and Poseidon when they fought over the possession of Athens. Athena took possession after planting the first olive tree beside a well. Olive wreaths have also been worn and awarded to Olympic victors.

Besides Greece and Athens, the olive branch also turns up in Early Christian tradition. It is often depicted in art, in the mouths of doves, or used in other ways. Now, that same symbol is used more broadly as an image of peace. Today, it appears on the Great Seal of the United States as well as on the flag of Cyprus.

Due to the wide-spread association of the olive branch with peace, the saying evolved naturally. Now, if someone says they want to extend an olive branch, they’re offering to come to an agreement about something.

 

Related Idioms

  • “You read my mind.”
  • “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”
  • “In the same boat.”
  • “That ship has sailed.”
  • Leave no stone unturned.”
  • “Sitting on the fence.”

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