Knuckle down and buckle down

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Knuckle down is a phrase which means to get serious about a task, to work diligently on a task or problem. Knuckle down is a term derived from the game of marbles, it first appears in the mid-1860s in American English. One puts a knuckle to the ground to assume the shooting position in marbles, thus the term knuckle down.

Buckle down is a phrase which means to get serious about a task, to work diligently on a task or problem. In fact, knuckle down and buckle down are virtually interchangeable idioms. Buckle down is also an American English phrase, first found in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1865. However, it is assumed that buckle down is derived from an earlier British phrase, buckle to, which first appears in the sixteenth century.


‘We have to knuckle down and do the hard work required in defence,’ said McRoberts. (The Portsmouth News)

Gallery co-director Dave Travis asked Brian to knuckle down a year ago – and was astonished at both the quality and volume of work the father-of-two produced. (Birmingham Mail)

If the WP reveals itself to be a worthwhile opposition which can knuckle down and rectify its mistakes, as I hope it does, then the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga should also be an ephemeral factor with little bearing on the next GE. (The Straits Times)

Instead of celebrating this victory, however, Syriza was forced to buckle down and start considering the challenges ahead almost immediately. (The International Business Times)

Because I’m prone to SNPS, I’m very much aware of how difficult it can be to buckle down and finish what you’ve started when there are so many shiny new pebbles in the stream. (The Springfield Business Journal)

And then days, weeks, months will go by before you finally decide to buckle down and make an album (maybe when you realize your first anniversary is fast approaching and you still don’t have one!) (The Huffington Post)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: Below the belt and hit below the belt