As the crow flies

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"As the crow flies" or "in a beeline" is an idiom for the shortest distance between two points (on a map, disregarding the vagaries of intervening terrain); the geodesic distance. A parallel idiom, as the wolf runs, is sometimes used to indicate the contrasting (and possibly much larger) distance required to travel between the two points over available surface routes.

An example is the great-circle distance between the cities of Key West and Pensacola, at either end of the U.S. state of Florida, where the direct point-to-point aerial transit path (as the bird flies) is 524 mi (843 km) the shortest route by road (as the wolf runs) is about 792 mi (1,275 km).

The phrases are attested in print as early as 1758.[1][2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smollett, T. G., ed. (1758). The Critical Review or Annals of Literature 4. London. p. 68. Retrieved 2012-07-22. "This is the substance of Mr Keysler's last volume. In our extracts from it we shall take the same liberty as in the preceding, of travelling with him as the crow flies, passing over many places, and only stopping at those which seem best to deserve our reader's attention. [Emphasis added.]" 
  2. ^ Allen, G. (January 1886). "Fish out of water". Popular Science Monthly: 334. "They were traveling across-country in a beeline, thousands of them together, not at all like the helpless fish out of water of popular imagination, but as unconcernedly and naturally as if they had been accustomed to the overland route for their whole lifetimes, and were walking now on the king's highway without let or hindrance. [Emphasis added.]" 

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