Idiom:  uncharted waters


Idiom:  (be in/get into) uncharted waters

  • an unfamiliar and unclear situation, that is therefore often difficult or dangerous

Note:  This idiom comes from marine navigation.  A nautical chart is used to represent sea and coastal areas, showing features such as the depth of water, navigational hazards, information on tides and currents, etc. These tools are essential for safe marine navigation.

An area of water that is uncharted (because it is not mapped or not previously explored) could be a difficult or dangerous situation for the captain of a boat.

Attention!  A common mistake is to use "unchartered waters" instead of "uncharted waters." To charter a boat is to reserve a boat (or plane, bus) for private use. This idiom refers to not having a chart and doesn't refer to not having a charter.

Similar idioms: to be or get into muddy (or murky) waters. Muddy and murky waters are dark and dirty so it is difficult to see and therefore difficult to navigate.

Example sentences

— Dating two women at the same time is uncharted waters for me but my roommate does it all the time.

— Traveling solo in Africa as a woman was uncharted waters but it was the best thing I've ever done. Now, I'm really confident about doing a lot of other things by myself.

— I was in uncharted waters driving on the left side of the road in England.

— Many schools suddenly entered uncharted waters with online instruction.

— I'm afraid we're in uncharted waters as we try to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

— I have to travel for three weeks for work so my husband is in uncharted waters taking care of our two-year-old twins by himself.

— Our company is about to go public and we're all feeling the stress of getting into unchartered waters.

— After trying to do my own taxes for three days, I decided I was in uncharted waters and it would better for an accountant to prepare them.

— Do you think it's wise to move your business completely online? Perhaps you should consult with someone before entering uncharted waters.

— If you want to become an entrepreneur you have to be comfortable constantly being in uncharted waters as well as be willing to fail repeatedly.


  • (be in/get into) muddy waters
  • in a sticky situation

Get our free idioms in pictures ebook

You might like these idioms

More idioms will be added in the future so check back frequently or sign-up for my free newsletter to learn about new updates to my website.

  1. Home Page
  2.  ›
  3. Idioms List
  4.  ›
  5. Idiom: Uncharted waters