Word of the Day


© Getty Images/iStockphoto
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. a heavy fall of earth and rocks down the side of a mountain or steep slope

2. a situation in which a person or political party wins an election by a very big majority

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Landslide is a compound noun formed from the nouns ‘land’ and ‘slide’. It has been used in English since the first half of the 19th century. Landslip, which has the same core meaning, dates from the end of the 17th century.


The term landslide originally referred to a significant fall of earth or rock down a steep slope. It was not long – in fact about fifty years – before the word was co-opted by those writing about politics to refer to a crushing election victory in which the winners obtain such a large majority as to effectively obliterate the losers. What started as a metaphor soon became a standard meaning and a landslide today is as likely to be political as physical. The earlier term ‘landslip‘ did not take the same linguistic course, and is only used literally. It is also much less frequently used today than landslide. The most common noun collocate of landslide by far is ‘victory’, with landslide acting as a modifier in the expression ‘landslide victory’.


“Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche.”
(Carl Jung)

“In a one-party system there is always a landslide.”
(Philip K. Dick)

Related words

hung parliament, overall majority, recount

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment