Keyed up

Keyed up is an idiom that has been in use for over a hundred years. 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 such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, 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 keyed up, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Keyed up is an idiom that means feeling nervous, a state of excitement, a state of anxiety. If someone is all keyed up, he is anxious or nervous, usually in anticipation of something. The expression keyed up first came into use in the 1880s and is derived from the field of music. To key up something means to tune an instrument to a particular key.


Newly Minted was also a bit keyed up in the gate and was unable to make the lead as trainer Linda Rice had hoped. (The Daily Racing Form)

The reigning champs looked like they may have been a little too keyed up at the start of Tuesday’s big game. (The Union-Recorder)

“Then I looked up and saw a big hole in the roof, but I was so keyed up I couldn’t figure out what had happened,” a neighbor said. (Reuters)

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