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I came up across the idiom 'where rubber hit the road' from an article but I don't remember the article's title. I looked up the definition of idiom on Free Dictionary. This is the definition it gave me.

The Free Dictionary"

"The point at which someone's or something's efforts, resolve, or viability are put to the test; the point at which things become truly or meaningfully challenging."

I thought that was that. But I looked up the phrase on different websites.

English-Grammar-Lessons.com:

"The expression “rubber meets the road” means that you’re about to test a concept in the real world or the market. It’s a way of saying that it’s time to see if your project works as expected.

The phrase usually appears as “when the rubber meets the road.” It’s a way of describing the inflection point between theory and practice."

The saying can also refer to times when a person’s attitude becomes serious, and they are ready to test themselves against a challenge in life, at work, or in the market.""

USING ENGLISH.com:

"Where the rubber meets the road is the most important point for something, the moment of truth. An athlete can train all day, but the race is where the rubber meets the road and they'll know how good they really are."

Rolls Off Tongue Tumblr:

"The point at which a theory or idea is put to a practical test; the most important point for something, the moment of truth; A place or circumstance at which the implementation of a plan or intent is to be achieved."

Why are there so many meanings for this idiom? Please explain

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reptaxWhy are there so many meanings for this idiom? Please explain

They are all fundamentally the same meaning, but used in different contexts.

Fraze.it has 79 exemplars

This one involves a double meaning - figurative and literal:

For a teen the learner's permit is literally where the rubber meets the road.

Here are some others which have some context:

Court decisions are where the rubber meets the road under our legal system.

For seismic hazard assessment, the study of ground motion is where the rubber meets the road.

Does that mean that apparent public support for clean energy withers away when the rubber meets the road?

In the world of improvised music, however, live albums are where the rubber meets the road, where the music can venture from a sketch to a widescreen portrait.

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reptaxWhy are there so many meanings for this idiom?

There really aren't so many meanings. There are many definitions, but they all approximate the same meaning, just as definitions attempt to do.

The fact is that definitions just dance around the meaning of an expression. The only thing that literally means the same thing as the expression is the expression itself.

If you already know what the expression means — by hearing it used again and again in different situations — each definition seems reasonable. It's only when you don't already know what it means that the definitions seem to be pointing in different directions.

It's virtually impossible to know how to use a word or expression properly just by reading its definition (or definitions), although definitions can help if you look up a word or expression that you hear or read in a specific context.

CJ

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Comments  
reptaxWhy are there so many meanings for this idiom?

It is a relatively new expression. How long have there been rubber tires? As with new slang, its meaning has not settled down, and it is imprecise in any event. I would not say it has wide currency. I have never used it, and until I read your research here, I would not have been able to define it. It is probably better to say in plain English whatever you think you might want to say with this expression.

After some thinking, I'm beginning to interpret the common theme as something like "when theory is tested against reality". I may be wrong.

 AlpheccaStars's reply was promoted to an answer.
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reptax

After some thinking, I'm beginning to interpret the common theme as something like "when theory is tested against reality". I may be wrong.

Yes, that is one of the common contextual meanings.

Also, it is the first time when a lot of practice or study is put to a real-world test.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.
reptaxI came up across

The third word is not needed.

reptaxI looked up the definition of idiom

You left out a word between those two.

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