verb tr.: To help oneself with one’s own initiative and no outside help.
noun: Unaided efforts.
adjective: Reliant on one’s own efforts.
While pulling on bootstraps may help with putting on one’s boots, it’s impossible to lift oneself up like that. Nonetheless the fanciful idea is a great visual and it gave birth to the idiom “to pull oneself up by one’s (own) bootstraps”, meaning to better oneself with one’s own efforts, with little outside help. It probably originated from the tall tales of Baron Münchausen who claimed to have lifted himself (and his horse) up from the swamp by pulling on his own hair.
In computing, booting or bootstrapping is to load a fixed sequence of instructions in a computer to initiate the operating system. Earliest documented use: 1891.
“At Yale, Timeica Bethel met and became close with other students who had also bootstrapped themselves out of poverty.”
Colleen Mastony; Timeica Bethel Goes from Chicago’s Housing Projects to Ivy League and Back; Chicago Tribune; Mar 27, 2011.
Explore “bootstrap” in the Visual Thesaurus.