Crack the whip

Crack the whip is an idiom that may be older than you think. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom crack the whip, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Crack the whip means to push someone to work harder, to demand more work from someone or that someone work faster or longer. A boss who is known to crack the whip is unreasonable. Usually, one can not satisfy a boss who will crack the whip. The idiom crack the whip is derived from a literal phrase, crack the whip, that came into use at least as early as the 1600s. This phrase describes the literal cracking of a whip over a horse’s head to startle him into obeying. The idiom crack the whip came into use sometime in the latter-1800s. Crack the whip is also a well-known children’s game that involves children holding hands in a chain. The lead child runs in random patterns across an area, dragging the line of children behind him so that the formation resembles a cracking whip. Related phrases are cracks the whip, cracked the whip, cracking the whip.


Somebody has to crack the whip over the company’s messy efforts, and the hedge fund Elliott Management raised its hand this week for the job. (The Wall Street Journal)

With 63 clauses of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019, coming into effect from September 1, the Centre is all set to crack the whip on some of the most common traffic violations across the country. (The Indian Express)

In his capacity as the chair of the Gauteng ANC caucus, provincial premier David Makhura issued a stern warning to cadres deployed in local government – the party is going to “crack the whip” on all problems facing local government in the province, especially on issues relating to corruption and mismanagement. (The Daily Maverick)

From cave-bound Indiana Jones-style action to otherworldly sequences that play out like the third act of Poltergeist (the PG-rated horror on which writer-producer Spielberg cracked the whip), Muschietti draws heavily on the ETdirector’s back catalogue. (The Guardian)

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