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literally referring to what Abraham Lincoln (read a few law books he found in a junk barrel, then became a lawyer and later President of The United States and Booker T Washington (learned to read and write as a sailor's) actually did, this term means:

to legally work, or rather legally to nigger, one's way up the social ladder of one's society in one's zeitgeist using nothing but one's own blood, sweat, toil, common sense, education and street-smarts, and not relying on your country's social assistance/welfare system (provided of course you are able bodied and not mentally ill to the point of not being able to work)
son: I don't understand how Abraham Lincoln legally achieved what he did. He was born on a bloody farm.

father: Jordan, just stop blabbering and learn the meaning of the phrase to pull yourself up by your boot straps and you'll do just as well. Now good night.
by sexydimma July 21, 2012
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2
The perfect metaphor for bad advice from clueless rich people who have zero experience with being poor.
Everyone who's ever attempted it knows how easy it is to pull yourself up by your boot straps if you just try. Just think positive, have a can-do attitude, then reach down, grab your bootstraps, and pull, and the sky is the limit to where you can go.
by Valerie Morghulis June 02, 2017
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