Definition of to and fro in English:

to and fro


  • In a constant movement backwards and forwards or from side to side:

    ‘she cradled him, rocking him to and fro’
    • ‘Flickering to and fro in a fierce battle of dominance, the flames of the fire sparkled with gold and orange flares.’
    • ‘The medical person moves the limb to and fro slowly to estimate resistance.’
    • ‘Rocking to and fro on his heels, he clasped his hands behind his back and waited for him to speak.’
    • ‘Swinging to and fro below, the robin's resolve paid off when a bit of the fruit tore loose.’
    • ‘All I Wanna Do Is Rock edges its way out of the speakers, the wind blowing the sound to and fro, Fran Healy's voice the only constant as the guitars shift in and out of auditory focus.’
    • ‘Moving the material to and fro, the machine is used to lay down thread in all directions, effectively drawing or painting with a needle.’
    • ‘She rewound the memory of the man to and fro in her head, attempting to find any discernible qualities from him in their the brief encounter.’
    • ‘The moon is full and it draws the waters to and fro.’
    • ‘But we kicked the flier to and fro, and it was fun.’
    • ‘What is dramatised is not only the margin, but also the movement to and fro, the passage, or transition between reality and representation.’
    • ‘Jiggle a mass to and fro and it will send out waves of gravitational energy, akin to the way a ball that is bounced on a trampoline sends vibrations across the canvas.’
    • ‘Travelling to and fro at high speeds in a vehicle that weighs close to a ton is, after all, a risky venture.’
    • ‘I was suddenly aware of the breezes rustling the grasses, tossing the branches of the trees to and fro, dashing the leaves against each other.’
    • ‘He was wearing a grin that could make a stone cry, while rolling the axe to and fro between his fingers.’
    • ‘To create his strangely evocative forms, he poured a small amount of the liquid onto paper, which he then swirled across the surface by tipping the sheet to and fro.’
    • ‘Shuffled to and fro, they are used down front as the curtain, and elsewhere as all sorts of palace or chamber walls.’
    • ‘Hence its life swings like a pendulum to and fro between pain and boredom, and these two are in fact its ultimate constituents.’
    • ‘The first sheep he found were in a neighbor's paddock, and Bert began working the sheep to and fro to Davey Sutherland's whistled commands.’
    • ‘The wind was whipping the trees to and fro in the growing darkness.’
    • ‘Mom was not a public person, but served her family with a loyalty and tenacity, patching clothes, driving the grandchildren to and fro, meeting them at the school bus, and so on.’
    from place to place, around, about, to and fro, hither and thither, back and forth, in all directions, from pillar to post
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[NO OBJECT]be toing and froing
  • 1 Move constantly backwards and forwards:

    ‘the ducks were toing and froing’
    ‘it does cost a lot, all this toing and froing up to London’
    • ‘Anyone who has eaten out with youngsters will be familiar with the routine of being seated round the corner but we were shown to a big table right in the middle of the restaurant, with plenty of room for restless toing and froing.’
    • ‘After a tremendous game of football which saw the initiative to and fro, Ballymore emerged victorious by 2 points.’
    • ‘The wasps are still out there, toing and froing with bits of our table like the Berlin Airlift.’
    • ‘There is a lot of toing and froing and complex weekend arrangements.’
    • ‘Phil, what have you been able to gather about what's going on in terms of the diplomatic toing and froing here?’
    • ‘It was all the toing and froing, the whole situation with Phil going to get shot.’
    • ‘Rather than raising questions and creating tension, the toing and froing between past and present is quite irritating, largely because the text is rushed and the narrative voice bordering on smug.’
    • ‘Hence the constant toing and froing between kitchen and the garden where the treasured bottle was laid on the ground as gently as a new born babe in its first crib.’
    • ‘Michael knew Al so there might have been things toing and froing there I don't know about.’
    movement, moving, locomotion, rise and fall, shifting, stirring, to and fro, toing and froing, coming and going
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    1. 1.1 Repeatedly discuss or think about something without making any progress:
      ‘all the toing and froing in Christian periodicals regarding women in leadership roles’
      • ‘After a certain amount of toing and froing with the national park, we agreed on sandstone for the new window openings.’
      • ‘After some toing and froing, the right of the King to grant Monopolies was ceded to Parliament.’
      • ‘I have allowed a little bit of toing and froing on this, but my patience is now at an end.’
      • ‘There is so much toing and froing between the district health board and the residential care facility that it is no wonder there is a lot of concern about how this part will be interpreted.’
      • ‘In the course of this toing and froing, McLean infamously declared that he would not sell to Thompson ‘until hell froze over’.’
      • ‘I have recognised that there has been a bit of toing and froing during this debate.’
      • ‘It has been an extraordinary week of political toing and froing in Victoria.’
      • ‘After much toing and froing, both sides will, we suspect, agree to an out-of-court settlement centering on a deal that will give each firm access to the other's intellectual property.’
      • ‘It started off a long while ago, with the first reading in about April 2002, and there has been toing and froing between the parties, with deals done here and parties pulling out there, since then.’
      • ‘When the US authorities have got down to some serious war planning, the toing and froing about which military option might be best betrays the same indecision and lack of clarity of purpose.’
      • ‘I have been reasonably generous in allowing a little bit of toing and froing, because there have been causes for it, but now I want to return to question time.’
      • ‘The member did not impugn his reputation, and because there has been a bit of toing and froing in this particular debate, I have allowed it to continue.’
      • ‘It seems there is no good reason, except that we have had backwards-and-forwards toing and froing between parties.’
      • ‘However, this is a Parliament where I believe we are able to have a bit of toing and froing.’
      • ‘The Bank says that this was simply toing and froing.’
      • ‘There was what we may call toing and froing about that, but we disagree with that assertion from the Bar table.’
      • ‘There was some toing and froing, to put it neutrally, detailed in paragraphs 12 and following of your submissions.’
      • ‘In this debate I have listened to the figures and percentages, and the toing and froing about why we should or should not help people.’
      • ‘We can have all this political toing and froing in here - and we will, for as long as this Government lasts.’
      • ‘Yes, there was obviously some toing and froing by the Council.’


  • 1[in singular] Constant movement backwards and forwards:

    ‘Wilkie watched the to and fro of their dancing’
    • ‘She says it is so hard with all the to and fro to the computer shop, every day, no time to learn new songs, no time to improve.’
    • ‘Throughout there has been the unending to and fro with MPs and Government Ministers.’
    • ‘In other words, human cultural creations need to arise from absorption in the play of nature so that we and our creativity are in harmony with the to and fro of nature's play.’
    • ‘It has been a continuous to and fro for years, as can be seen from the course of development of the Community institutions.’
    • ‘His video art does the to and fro between the personal and the political.’
    • ‘It would be so much simpler to buy time - two hours, say - and you could do a quick to and fro on one fare.’
    • ‘The most basic thing about play is the to and fro of constantly repeated movement.’
    • ‘Soon he became bored, watching the to and fro of this tireless woman.’
    • ‘Whole cities, whole civilizations have traded places in the global to and fro of humanity.’
    movement, moving, locomotion, rise and fall, shifting, stirring, to and fro, toing and froing, coming and going
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    1. 1.1 Constant change in action, attitude, or focus:
      ‘we follow the to and fro in Britain’
      • ‘Then in paragraph 32 he struck a theme which has echoed loud in the to and fro of argument on these appeals.’
      • ‘There is the sense that role is not understood on an abstract level of narrative, but in the to and fro of relations that are always open to transformation and the passage of affect and emotion.’
      • ‘Soft interventions form part of the normal to and fro of bilateral and multilateral relations between states.’
      • ‘The endless to and fro between ministers and fishermen is getting us nowhere.’
      • ‘Discussions are limited in time, and have little of the to and fro that would occur in a one-to-one real-time discussion.’
      • ‘Thinking in terms of the usual to and fro, Joe Duffy's team dredged up a couple of callers willing to feel a vague sympathy for Burke.’
      • ‘My concern is that in the to and fro of debate, the language cements what then become accepted norms.’


Middle English: fro from Old Norse frá (see from).


to and fro

/ˌtuː ən ˈfrəʊ/