Move the Needle – Meaning & Example Sentences

“Move the needle” is an expression that you’ve probably heard before, and if you have no other context for it, it’s probably an awfully confusing expression. This article will handily explain what “move the needle” means and present you with example sentences to help solidify your learning.

Move the Needle – Meaning

“Move the needle” is an expression that refers to an action that is powerful or significant enough that the impact from that action is felt, and that the action itself will not go unnoticed. When you “move the needle” you’re basically making a noticeable impact.

move the needle meaning

Whenever someone “moves the needle”, it means that whatever action they have taken, it was significant enough that other people will notice the fact that the “needle has moved”.

“Moving the needle” is considered a positive action in most contexts, but that doesn’t mean that it cannot be used negatively, as the definition doesn’t prohibit it at all.

How to Use “Move the Needle” in a Sentence

Learning how to use “move the needle” in your own personal sentences is going to enable you to talk about people’s actions and the impact that they have in an entirely new and innovative way. Here are some example sentences that will help you with learning the phrase:

  1. If you want to move the needle forward in business you’ll have to try harder than that.
  2. Moving the needle is what all of us want, so you should get in line and adjust your expectations.
  3. She’s really trying to push the needle, I don’t know if she’ll manage it, but it’s impressive.
  4. I get that you want to push the needle forward no matter what happens, but this is wrong.
  5. We should all try moving the needle, and that way we’ll actually have a presence for people.
  6. When you consider the fact that we’re all trying to move the needle forward, it’s alright.
  7. Let’s move the needle together and try to get our work noticed in that way, yes?

Move the Needle – Origin

The expression “move the needle” comes from music recorders, specifically from the classic Vu meter analog recorder. When you were recording with that device, it measured audio with a needle, and if the sound was too soft and quiet the needle wouldn’t move at all.

That’s where the idea of “moving the needle” comes from, from the fact that if a sound was loud enough, then it would move the needle, and be registered by the recorder.

This is a really valuable thing to learn because it enables you to properly know the origin of the expression that you’re using.

What Does It Mean To Move The Needle In Business?

If someone uses the phrase “move the needle” in a business context, they’re referring to doing some sort of action that will get noticed by the business community at large. There are plenty of businesses that do things that go unnoticed, so moving the needle is good.

When a business moves the needle, it means that whatever action its taking is significant enough to get noticed by other businesses, which will lead to more business for them.

Is Moving the Needle a Metaphor?

Yes, moving the needle is a metaphor.

This is because a metaphor is a representation of something that is figurative in nature, but that you don’t act like it’s figurative by using “like” or “such as”, but by simply stating that it’s what’s happening.

Therefore, when you use “move the needle” you’re talking as if you were literally moving a needle, even though you aren’t, which makes it a metaphor.

Move the Needle – Synonyms

There are plenty of phrases that you can use instead of “move the needle” to help you convey the exact feeling of making an impact that “move a needle” accomplishes. Here are some of those synonym phrases:

  • Make an impact
  • Make yourself felt
  • Make an impression
  • Give people a notice

Incorrect Ways to Use “Move the Needle”

There are incorrect ways in which people use “move the needle”. The first and most obvious of them all is people assuming that the phrase relates to literally talking about a needle, and using it in contexts relating to vinyl records and knitting.

This is evidently incorrect, as “move the needle” talks about a figurative needle exclusively, and there are no literal needles involved in its usage.

In What Situations Can You Use “Move the Needle”?

“Move the needle” is an expression that you can use in plenty of different situations. Whenever someone does something that is going to get them noticed by the people around them, particularly in a positive way, you can say that they moved the needle.

If someone makes a bold statement or essay that gets them attention by the journalistic community, for example, that would be a case of moving the needle.