Own up

  • Own up is an idiom that has been in use since the 1800s. 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 saying own up, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    To own up means to admit responsibility for something that has gone wrong, to acknowledge one’s error. Own up means to confess one’s wrongdoing. For instance, a child who has broken his mother’s vase and admits that he is one who has broken the vase may be said to own up. The expression own up came into use in the 1850s. Related phrases are owns up, owned up, owning up.



    “He needs to own up to it because sooner or later we need somebody in the United States Senate that will stand up to Communist China,” Perdue said. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

    Alvarez acknowledged his misjudgment Thursday, saying “I own up to my error and I am glad Rex gets another shot.” (Fresno Bee)

    “The neocon advocates for unlimited presidential war powers should own up to their hypocrisy and admit that their love of perpetual war trumps their oft-stated unitary executive theory.” (New York Post)

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