Pull one’s weight

Pull one’s weight is an idiom that came into use in the late 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, 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. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase pull one’s weight, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To pull one’s weight means to do one’s fair share, to make an equal contribution, to work as hard as everyone else is working. The idiom pull one’s weight came into use in the latter 1800s from a rowing term. The sports of rowing, sculling, and crew involve teamwork between a number of participants as they sit in a boat and pull oars through the water. Each person is expected to pull his weight, or row just as hard as any other team member. The sport of rowing is said to have originated along the Thames in London in the 1700s. Related phrases are pulls one’s weight, pulled one’s weight, pulling one’s weight.


My father pulled his weight in the Boy Scout troop where I aspired to nothing and was drummed out after Bruce Koewing and I left early from an overnight camp-out without telling anyone. (The Shelter Island Reporter)

Pull your weight, and it doesn’t matter if everything is rigged in your favor or not. (The Indianapolis Monthly)

“We tell the guys all the time, yeah wrestling is fun and playing sports is great but if you can’t pull your weight in the classroom then you can’t be here pulling your weight on the mat.” (The New Haven Independent)

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