flesh out

When you flesh out an argument or an idea, you add more details to it, giving it more substance. Your English teacher might ask you to flesh out the rough draft of your essay.

While it's possible to flesh out a speech or a conversation, it's more common to find this phrase referring to written work. A poet's editor might tell her to flesh out a certain section of a poem, or you might flesh out the core of your argument in a story you hope to publish in a magazine. Flesh out is believed to come from the idea of adding flesh, physical substance, to a skeleton or a frame.

Definitions of flesh out
  1. verb
    add details, as to an account or idea; clarify the meaning of and discourse in a learned way, usually in writing
    synonyms: dilate, elaborate, enlarge, expand, expatiate, exposit, expound, lucubrate
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    abbreviate, abridge, contract, cut, foreshorten, reduce, shorten
    reduce in scope while retaining essential elements
    cut, edit, edit out
    cut and assemble the components of
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    provide details for
    exposit, expound, set forth
    exemplify, illustrate, instance
    clarify by giving an example of
    particularise, particularize, specialise, specialize, specify
    be specific about
    depict, describe, draw
    give a description of
    set forth beforehand, often as an explanation
    spell out
    make explicit; specify in detail
    type of:
    clarify, clear up, elucidate
    make clear and (more) comprehensible
  2. verb
    make fat or plump
    synonyms: fat, fatten, fatten out, fatten up, fill out, plump, plump out
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    type of:
    alter, change, modify
    cause to change; make different; cause a transformation
  3. verb
    become round, plump, or shapely
    synonyms: fill out, round
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    type of:
    gain, put on
    increase (one's body weight)
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