Do anybody know the origin of "to and fro", it sounds pretty confusing to me, because it is not seen so common. At least, not for me.
I'd say, "This way and that way - repeatedly." I watched the tennis ball go to and fro.

The ants were going to and fro, finding things and taking them back to the nest.

Sorry, I don't know the origin.

Hmmm, I guess the origin is all you wanted. Sorry.

Welcome to English Forums, Shane. Thanks for joining us! [<:o)]

I'm sure somebody can look the expression up for you.

Best wishes, - A.
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I would assume that "to and fro" originates as "to" as in going to somewhere and then "from" as in coming back from that place. "fro" is an abbreviation of "from" . So if you were to say "the chair rocked to and fro", you would mean it rocked one way and then back again "from" that way.
Hope this helps!Emotion: smile

I believe the origin, as once explained by the Master Carpenter of Colonial Williamsburg, Roy Underhill, has to do with a "fro" or a wedge-shaped tool used in splitting wood to make roofing shingles. The fro is shaped like the letter "L", with the short leg of the tool (the iron splitting edge) placed on top of a section of wood and pounded on with a mallet or the butt of an axe, and the long, upright wooden handle usually held by the left hand. The fro splits the wood along the grain, and as the wedge is pushed down through the wod, the user continues to tap the end of the blade the protrudes from the side of the log section. The worker rocks the fro back and forth while continuing to split the wood, and the rocking, back and forth motion of the fro is most probably the origin of the phrase "going to and fro". The shingles split off the log and the worker replaces the fro on the top of the log section to split off another piece. Production of shingles in this manner can be rapid, if the woodworker is skilled, and in times past, shingle splitters would compete. Bystanders, amazed at the speed of the splitting, would often remark, "They are going to and fro!" Eventually, the phrase was used to indicate that someone was just moving about quickly, or going back and forth like a shingle splitter, or that they were travelling in some kind of routine manner. The use of the phrase can be used to refer to repetitive motion, or any kind of routine movement or travel. A sewing macine needle can be said to go "to and fro" (up and down / back and forth), or a person can be going to and fro doing housecleaning, shopping around town, or some other hurried business or activity.

I hope this explanation helps.
Additional comment:

The tool is also spelled "froe" or "frow". Check it out in Wikepedia to see a few illustrations of the tool.

There are Biblical references to this phrase, roughly, "going to and fro", but the phrase was probably of a later origin, and I believe the phrase does reference the action of using the tool to split wood into useful construction materials.
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The idea is of biblical origins

1. Hebrew phrase transliterated “ve yatse’ yatso’” “it went out and going out” [Ge 8:7]

2. A Hebrew phrase transliterated ”ʾechad hennah ve ʾechad hennah” (Strong’s lexicon #259 and 208), literally meaning: “once here and once there” [2 Ki 4:25]A

3. A Hebrew phrase transliterated “henna ahath va henna”


Then he returned, and walked in the house *to and fro; and went up, ….

AV 1873 note: * [Heb. once hither, and once thither.

2 Kings 4:35, AV 1873

It originated in early America.

Old timers used a tool for splitting shakes and making pegs for timber framed buildings. The tool is called a "Froe". It was sunk into woods endgrain and worked "to and froe" to split the wood.


It originated in early America.

Old timers used a tool for splitting shakes and making pegs for timber framed buildings. The tool is called a "Froe". It was sunk into woods endgrain and worked "to and froe" to split the wood.

Sorry, that's not correct. Though the words are related, the word fro predates the name of the tool, which itself dates from the late 16th century, i.e. before America got started. Here are the relevant entries from Wiktionary:

From Middle English fro, fra, from Old English fra (“from”), from Old Norse frá (“from”), from Proto-Germanic *fram (“from”), from Proto-Indo-European *promo- (“forth, forward”). Cognate with Scots frae (“fro, from”), Icelandic frá (“from”).

fro (not comparable)

(archaic) From; away; back or backward.
Usage notes
In modern English, used only in the set phrase to and fro (“back and forth”).

Derived terms
to and fro

Abbreviation of obsolete frower, from froward (“turned away”), referring to the orientation of the blade, at right angles to the handle. From late 16th century.[1]

froe (plural froes)

A cleaving tool for splitting cask staves and shingles from the block.

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