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idioms: blue-sky

The meaning of the adjective blue-sky depends on the context in which it is used.

In the area of environmental protection, blue-sky is used to describe projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and generally cleaning up the environment.

  • A number of blue-sky technologies offer hope for large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Blue-sky also describes laws regulating investments.

  • Blue-sky laws were designed to protect investors from fraudulent securities with "no more basis than so many feet of ’blue sky.’"1

In science, blue-sky refers to basic research (which is exploratory, experimental and theoretical) as opposed to applied research (which has a specific, practical goal).

  • Blue-sky research has led to many valuable scientific breakthroughs.

In business and management jargon, the adjective blue-sky was originally used for impractical ideas, but it now refers to thinking that is visionary and creative.

  • The consultant’s blue-sky thinking pointed us toward a new path for the future.

Blue-sky is also a verb meaning either to have unrealistic, impractical ideas or to think creatively. In the second sense, blue-skying it can be used as a synonym for thinking outside the box.

  • We were asked to blue-sky it to come up with some innovative ideas.

Blue-skying is also used as a synonym for brainstorming. Of course, the idea of brainstorming is to throw out ideas as they come to us, in the hope of coming up with something creative and innovative. At the same time, many of the ideas produced by brainstorming will be impractical, so there’s a connection here with both of the previously cited meanings.

1 Back to the text United States Supreme Court decision Hall v. Geiger-Jones Co., 242 U.S. 539, 37 S. Ct. 217, 61 L. Ed. 480