“Full throttle” is an English idiom which means that someone is doing something at maximum effort and with great speed. This phrase gets its origin from the practice of pilots, who, when they push the throttle all the way down, make the aircraft move at its maximum speed. When “full throttle” is used in situations not involving a plane, it means that someone is not holding back anything at all in terms of effort. In certain circumstances, this idiom can also suggest a complete lack of abandon which can lead to a potentially damaging situation.
Idioms are used in the English language by speakers looking to add bits of color and expressiveness to speech that might otherwise be dull. They are generally short phrases which can have meanings much different that what the literal definitions of the included words might imply. This is because the meanings have likely grown over time through usage to the point where they are understood by everyone in the culture. One phrase that has its origins in the world of aircraft is the expression “full throttle.”
It was often the case for fighter pilots in World War II to fly at extreme speeds to try and evade enemy fire. On occasions like those, a pilot would take the throttle and push it all the way to the limit of its reach. At that point, the plane was said to be at “full throttle,” and it was at its maximum level in terms of speed.
In its daily use, the phrase tends to imply not only that someone is doing something fast, but also that he or she is expending full effort to do it. It is often used as a compliment to honor someone who is working extremely hard at completing a task. The phrase can imply that something is being done to its limits with nothing left to spare. As an example, someone might say, “I didn’t think he could get it done in time, but he worked full throttle for two weeks straight.”
Although the phrase is generally meant as a compliment, there are times when a person using it might be slightly scolding the person being described in this manner. The lack of restraint implied by this phrase can also, at times, be connected to a lack of subtlety or an absence of forethought. In this context, someone might say, “He always goes full throttle without ever thinking about the consequences.”