On a Tear – Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

On a tear means someone is in a state of energetic activity, often with a hint of recklessness or enthusiasm, usually after a period of quiet or inactivity. Think of it as going from zero to a hundred in a snap. If you have children, you should understand what this is like.

Idioms are fixed expressions whose meanings are not directly understood from the individual words used. Instead, they convey a figurative rather than a literal meaning. We use idioms like on a tear to add personality and richness to the things we say, making simple conversations wonderfully vibrant.

But where did this phrase originate from? And how do you use it without tearing apart your sentences? I’ve got all the answers you need right here! Keep reading and find out how to correctly use the idiom on a tear in a sentence.

On a Tear – Meaning and Origin

Is It ‘On a Tear’ or ‘On a Tare’?

First, I’d like to clear up any confusion. It’s “on a tear,” not “on a tare.” Tare is a term in weighing, relating to deducting the weight of a container. Tear in this idiom points metaphorically to the act of moving rapidly and maybe even recklessly, like tearing through a town or tearing down a building.

Also, tear is a homophone, so it has two pronunciations, depending on the subject matter. Tear, pronounced like air, is what you want to say, and not tear, pronounced like ear.

What Does ‘On a Tear’ Mean?

As I previously said, if someone’s on a tear, they’re on a roll! They’re enthusiastically blazing through something, be it work, play, or anything in between. It’s a period of high activity and, often, success.

I’m just picturing myself when I’m on a deadline with my editor to get my latest manuscript sent over to them. Day and night, I’m with my laptop, typing away feverishly. In other words, I’m on a tear to finish the book.

Origin and Etymology Behind ‘On a Tear’

On a Tear Ngram
On a tear usage trend.

Believe it or not, there is no exact origin of the phrase “on a tear.” But it is an American saying that popped up sometime during the 19th century and likely comes from the actual act of tearing through something like a piece of paper. It’s quick and vicious!

‘On a Tear’ Synonyms

Don’t like the way it sounds? Try one of these alternatives to saying on a tear.

  • On a roll
  • On fire
  • In the zone
  • On a streak
  • Hitting your stride

Using ‘On a Tear’ in Sentence Examples

On a Tear – Meaning and Origin 1

  • This new band from the UK has been on a tear with their back-to-back hit singles. I can’t get enough of them!
  • Ever since joining the gym, my sister’s been on a tear, losing 20 pounds in 2 months!
  • I’m on a tear this week trying to get my manuscript finished.
  • David went on a tear after discovering his passion for photography, and now he’s famous.
  • The tech startup is going on a tear this week, launching all its new products.
  • Mom’s on a tear in the kitchen, baking cakes for the entire neighborhood!
  • This video game streamer is on a tear through old-school games for his new YouTube series.
  • Our cat seems to be on a tear, racing around the house with his zoomies!
  • The sales team is on a tear this quarter, surpassing all targets.

On a Tear With Idioms!

On a tear can mean you’re passionately engrossed in an activity or spiraling down a hole of bad behavior. In this case, it’s all about context. It’s little idiomatic wonders like this that make the English language a thrilling thing to master. So why stop here? Tear through more idioms with the guides on our site!