What Did Dory Mean By “Just Keep Swimming?”

In the 2003 Pixar movie, Finding Nemo, and its 2016 sequel Finding Dory, the forgetful and lovable Dory sings the “just keep swimming” mantra whenever she or someone else is feeling down. But what does it mean, exactly?

just keep swimming meaning dory

“Just keep swimming” is an encouraging phrase that is similar to “keep on trucking”, which means to keep going and not to give up. You don’t have to be a swimmer or a fish to be inspired by this phrase. Whenever you’re feeling down, remember to just keep swimming.

Keep reading on to learn about where this phrase originated from, what it means, and how to use it to its full potential.

What is the Context Behind “Just Keep Swimming?”

“Just keep swimming” was first sung/spoken by the character Dory in the 2003 Pixar film Finding Nemo and it is sung again in the sequel Finding Dory. However, the real credit should go to Andrew Stanton, who worked not only as a writer on the film but also as one of its directors.

Ellen DeGeneres, who voices Dory, revealed in an interview that Stanton personally wrote Dory in mind for her. DeGeneres was at a personal low in her life at that point, and so that motto had a significant impact on her, to the point that it became part of her personal philosophy since taking on that role.

In the context of the movie, Dory was taught this mantra by her parents to calm herself down. Dory suffers from short-term memory loss and is shown to have separation anxiety, making life difficult for her. Whenever things weren’t going so well for her or her companion Marlin, she would start singing the “just keep swimming” song as a reminder to not give up.

What Does “Just Keep Swimming” Mean?

Just keep swimming basically has the same meaning as “keep on truckin” or “keep moving forward”, which is to not give up.

In Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming” could be taken both literally and figuratively. Since the characters are fish and the movie takes place in the ocean, they had to literally keep swimming in order to make progress on finding Nemo.

Taken figuratively, as most idioms are meant to be, just keep swimming can essentially be used as an encouraging phrase or motto to remind yourself to not give up.

I find that it can basically be used in any context where “keep on truckin” can be used, so if you prefer, you can try saying “just keep swimming” instead.

If you really want to stay true to the source, you can try singing the “just keep swimming” song to cheer up a friend or family member, rather than just speaking the words. It’s silly, short, and sure to make anyone smile at how refreshingly optimistic it makes you seem.

Just Keep Swimming as a Philosophy

What did Ellen DeGeneres mean when she said “just keep swimming” is a philosophy she’s seen in her own life, and how can you see it in your life too? Well, only she can tell you what it means to her, but here’s what it means to me.

Whenever I tell myself to “just keep swimming”, it encourages me to try something, anything, to put me one step closer to my goal (or take me one step away from a bad situation).

Whatever it is you’re struggling with, I recommend starting small. If your goal is to start exercising, for example, you can set yourself a goal to just walk around the neighborhood for 5-10 minutes. You don’t need to commit to an hour-long run or go to the gym. Just getting yourself out of the house can do wonders.

If you’re struggling with getting out of bed, forcing yourself to literally roll out of bed onto the floor is a major victory and you should feel proud of that. It’s a start, and you’re proving to yourself that the obstacle is not insurmountable, and you’ve just taken the first step (or tumble).

If you’re a swimmer struggling to improve your swim times, then like for Dory and Marlin, “just keep swimming” is amazing advice both literally and figuratively.

And if you keep doing these small things everyday, you get better at them, and before you know it, you’re walking for 30 minutes or an hour around the neighborhood, or getting out of bed as soon as the alarm rings, or shaving off a few more seconds from your swim time.

Keep making an effort, no matter how small, because eventually you will make progress, but that won’t happen if you’ve already given up. So just keep swimming.