Pop the question

Pop the question is an idiom that has been in use since the 1700s. 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, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, piece of cake, hit the sack, 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 pop the question, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To pop the question means to ask someone if she will marry you, to ask for a person’s hand in marriage. Traditionally, the person who will pop the question is the male, though changing mores mean that a woman may pop the question to a man, or a person of the same sex may pop the question to his or her partner. Related phrases are pops the question, popped the question, popping the question. The phrase pop the question came into use in the 1700s to mean to ask an important question, which may have been a proposal of marriage or it may have been any other important question. By the 1820s, the expression pop the question came to be an idiom that solely means to ask if someone will marry you.


Soon, the two found themselves at a gorgeous waterfall within the picturesque North Carolina landscape, and soon, Roberts’ boyfriend of four years was popping the question. (People Magazine)

Wedding planning app Bridebook found that the weekend of December 21 and 22 is when most are expected to pop the question. (The Sun)

Ronan Farrow used ‘Catch and Kill’ to pop the question to Jon Lovett (New York Times)

As if that wasn’t enough to thrill us, Daniel also spoke in more depth about the proposal itself in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, revealing that he popped the question at the couple’s home. (Country Living Magazine)

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