in the field
[in thuh feeld]
What does in the field mean?
In the field is an idiom with several, related meanings. When someone’s in the field, they’re “in direct contact with a source of data or subject of interest,” as in doing work outside an office or laboratory. It can also mean “in actual use,” like a product release after R&D, or it can have the more literal sense of “within a given profession or area of expertise.” It’s also slang for working hard or enduring the challenges of real life.
Where does in the field come from?
In the 1400s, in the field meant “on the field of battle,” referring to soldiers engaged in combat. By the late the 1700s, in the field became a metaphor for all manner of work being done outside of a laboratory, classroom, or office.
When you’re in the field, your doing hands-on work and getting practical, real-world information or experience. Like a product being directly tested by consumers instead of by corporate R&D, or an anthropologist living with a tribe versus reading texts in a library.
“I literally sat there, and my jaw just dropped,” Becky McCloskey ‘20, said of her experience of seeing the plans for a new top-secret project at Disney. Being out in the field is often a transformative moment but in this case, it was magical. https://t.co/3NLo291w16
— York College of PA (@yorkcollegepa) April 30, 2019
The field here, can also refer to an area of study, as in the field of education or biology. Charles Darwin, for instance, wrote in an 1846 letter: “I am delighted that you are in the Field, geologising or palaeontologising.”
New York-based rapper Pardison Fontaine brought more mainstream attention to the phrase in his 2017 song “In the Field,” where he raps: “I’m in the field right now / I had to bust a dougie, shit was gettin’ real right now / If you broke, I know how you feel right now.” Fontaine is using in the field in a more colloquial sense for “actively working” or “hustling.”
(And oh, busting a dougie, apparently, is “making moves.”)
Examples of in the field
Who uses in the field?
In the field sees wide use in professional and academic contexts, especially in the sciences and human services. The phrase can be used to contrast more abstract, theoretical work with work that’s more tangible, action-oriented, and participatory. The implied counterweight to being in the field is being in the office or lab.
May Ayim, an Afro-German poet, educator, author & activist is known for her groundbreaking work in the field of Afro-German history. She inspired many w/ her tireless, transnational solidarity work w/Audre Lorde. Ayim helped to build @ISDBund & a network of Afro-German feminists. pic.twitter.com/lMzntdFDmL
— Imani A Wadud (@imaniwadud) March 6, 2019
Often, it’s art which allows people to share, accept and deal-with what they’ve been through. Organisations like @inplaceofwar (which I Chair) are doing work in the field across the world, using arts to help communities impacted by conflict. pic.twitter.com/9lj8a43aJN
— Vikas Shah MBE (@MrVikas) May 16, 2018
In politics, in the field can specifically refer to candidates competing for office.
The two most predictable things for this week-The Bernie Sanders opposition research team that's savaged most every candidate in the field so far will turn their guns on Mayor Pete and Sanders himself will complain that he's being attacked That's the only way he knows how to run
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) April 15, 2019
Of course, one can still literally be in the field, as a lamb gamboling in a grassy knoll.
Lambs a leaping in the field at the end of our garden 🙂 pic.twitter.com/kHSTvvuu7f
— Kate Puplett (@katepuplett) March 9, 2019
This is not meant to be a formal definition of in the field like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of in the field that will help our users expand their word mastery.