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Expression meaning that, for some formerly great field presently in a bad state, signs are beginning to appear that suggest a recovery. Mostly used when talking of economic matters, career paths or sports teams. It may even be a technical economics term, given the frequency of it's use.

For example, the standard Conservative refrain through the UK recession of the early 90's was that the economy was "showing the green shoots of recovery", which became a party mantra of denial (the economy most certainly wasn't). For this reason, this expression is often wielded with sarcastic intent in the UK.

Expect to hear it droned out repeatedly in the probably forthcoming 2001 recession.