Catch some Zs

Catch some Zs is an idiom that has been in use for over a hundred years. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom catch some Zs, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To catch some Zs means to go to sleep or to take a nap. The Zs in the expression catch some Zs refers to snoring; the letter Z was first used in an American newspaper comic strip called the Katzenjammer Kids, first published around the turn of the twentieth century. Sometimes the idiom is rendered with an apostrophe, as in catch some Z’s; sometimes the phrase is rendered with a lowercase z, as in catch some zs or catch some z’s. The preferred spelling according to the Oxford English Dictionary is catch some Zs. Related phrases are caught some Zs and catching some Zs.


These gummies last for four hours or more, so you can catch some Zs without worrying about catching your morning train. (Men’s Journal)

Just about everyone commented on having too much food and not enough space to stretch out and catch some Zs – areas the team spoke of as needing to address for next year. (Pipestone County Star)

What to say about this song, which sounds like it could’ve been written (and recorded) as the two Chainsmokers and all four members of Coldplay caught some Zs? (Los Angeles Times)

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