verb (used without object), leaped or leapt, leap·ing.

verb (used with object), leaped or leapt, leap·ing.



    by leaps and bounds, very rapidly: We are progressing by leaps and bounds.
    leap in the dark, an action of which the consequences are unknown: The experiment was a leap in the dark.
    leap of faith, an act or instance of accepting or trusting in something that cannot readily be seen or proved.

Origin of leap

before 900; Middle English lepen, Old English hlēapan to leap, run; cognate with German laufen, Old Norse hlaupa, Gothic hlaupan
Related formsleap·er, noun

Synonyms for leap

1. bound. See jump.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for by leaps and bounds


verb leaps, leaping, leapt or leaped

(intr) to jump suddenly from one place to another
(intr often foll by at) to move or react quickly
(tr) to jump over
to come into prominence rapidlythe thought leapt into his mind
(tr) to cause (an animal, esp a horse) to jump a barrier


the act of jumping
a spot from which a leap was or may be made
the distance of a leap
an abrupt change or increase
Also called (US and Canadian): skip music a relatively large melodic interval, esp in a solo part
a leap in the dark an action performed without knowledge of the consequences
by leaps and bounds with unexpectedly rapid progress
Derived Formsleaper, noun

Word Origin for leap

Old English hlēapan; related to Gothic hlaupan, German laufen
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for by leaps and bounds



c.1200, from Old English hliep, hlyp (West Saxon), *hlep (Mercian, Northumbrian) "a leap, bound, spring, sudden movement; thing to leap from;" common Germanic (cf. Old Frisian hlep, Dutch loop, Old High German hlouf, German lauf); from the root of leap (v.). Leaps has been paired with bounds since at least 1720.



c.1200, from Old English hleapan "to jump, run, leap" (class VII strong verb; past tense hleop, past participle hleapen), from Proto-Germanic *khlaupan (cf. Old Saxon hlopan, Old Norse hlaupa, Old Frisian hlapa, Dutch lopen, Old High German hlouffan, German laufen "to run," Gothic us-hlaupan "to jump up"), of uncertain origin, with no known cognates beyond Germanic. Leap-frog, the children's game, is attested by that name from 1590s; figurative use by 1704.

First loke and aftirward lepe [proverb recorded from mid-15c.]

Related: Leaped; leaping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with by leaps and bounds

by leaps and bounds

Rapidly, or in fast progress, as in The corn is growing by leaps and bounds, or School enrollment is increasing by leaps and bounds. This term is a redundancy, since leap and bound both mean “spring” or “jump,” but the two words have been paired since Shakespeare's time and are still so used.


In addition to the idioms beginning with leap

  • leap in the dark
  • leap of faith

also see:

  • by leaps and bounds
  • look before you leap
  • quantum leap

Also see underjump.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.