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Chiefly in:   hone in on

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • French hone in on Egypt crash black box signal (abs-cbn news, January 7, 2004)
  • Police hone in on site: Stillman wants new station on Robbins Road (Daily News Transcript, January 31, 2005)
  • “Performance-wise our Pontiac Grand Am and Kurt’s Chevrolet will be right there,” said Johnson. “We actually expect to be at the head of the pack. We started honing in on it toward the end of last season, but didn’t have enough time to produce all the parts and pieces that it takes to get the performance to where it needs to be. (motorsport.com, 2005-02-07)
  • With an election in the offing and opinion polls dictating their every gesture, our political masters have honed-in on immigration as a key battle-ground. (The Scotsman, 8 Feb 2005)

Analyzed or reported by:

Honing the blade for a surgical strike.

Listed in The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (2000) without as much as a usage note, and in the BBC Skillswise Glossary, _hone in (on)_ is very likely to pass into the mainstream.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English (1993), though, calls it an “erroneous version of _home in (on)_”.

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2005/02/09 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by c , 2006/06/26 at 9:16 pm

    Noticed it twice in Janice Roitman’s _Fiscal Disobedience : An Anthropology of Economic Regulation in Central Africa_ (Princeton University Press 2004).

  2. 2

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2006/07/15 at 3:41 pm

    Also: “honing device”. As in the following, from Faye Kellerman’s Jupiter’s Bones (Avon paperback, 1999), p. 343:

    To the others, Lauren whispered, “We’re going to have to drop the electronic junk. They have lots of honing devices, being paranoid and all. We can’t afford to risk it.

    Googling on “honing device” pulls up references to a lot of devices that actually hone things, but also some like:

    Mason gives us a hero who appears to have a honing device on his body that leads him … (www.theromancereader.com/…)

  3. 3

    Commentary by David A. Penney , 2006/08/08 at 2:59 pm

    I had a boss who always said “honing in on” our objective. I had a feeling she was confusing it with honing our methods.

  4. 4

    Commentary by Andra Miller , 2006/08/21 at 9:04 pm

    I always heard “hone in,” and it made sense as “sharpening down” to the essence of something or the edge of it. Then, when I heard “home in” a few times, I thought it was simply mistakes by people who didn’t know about honing stones. But in some cases homing in made sense, as in finding one’s way to the basic problem. I think both expressions are valid and a careful writer or speaker will choose that which is best for the subject.

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