driving force

Idioms & Phrases

driving force

The impetus, power, or energy behind something in motion, as in He was clearly the driving force in the new administration. This term transfers the force that sets in motion an engine or vehicle to other enterprises. Ralph Waldo Emerson was among the first to use it figuratively (English Traits, 1856): "The ability of its journals is the driving force."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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