Pull up stakes and up sticks

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The idioms pull up stakes and up sticks mean virtually the same thing but have different origins and are used in different corners of the world. We will examine the meaning of the idioms pull of stakes and up sticks, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

To pull up stakes means to move residence, to go to live somewhere else, to go to work somewhere else. The idiom pull up stakes almost always means to change the place that one frequents, whether it is one’s home, job, or other place one visits frequently. The idiom pull up stakes seems to have originated in America during the 1600s. Some believe it has to do with moving a settlement’s palisade to another location. A palisade is made up of poles that are sharpened to a point at the top and placed as a barrier to outside attack around a settlement. Other believe pull up stakes is a reference to pulling up survey stakes. Pull up stakes is still primarily an American idiom. Related phrases are pulls up stakes, pulled up stakes, pulling up stakes.

To up sticks also means to move one’s residence, to pack up and move somewhere else. Up sticks is most often used to mean to move to a new home, but it may mean to pack up a campsite or a picnic. The origin of the term up sticks is uncertain. Many believe it is nautical slang, referring to raising a mast. Some believe it came from pulling pickets that tethered horses. Others believe it has to do with moving temporary dwellings. The idiom up sticks is used primarily in British English. Related phrases are ups sticks, upped sticks, upping sticks.


“Beyond the jobs that are lost and the families impacted by this decision, the township’s concern right now is if (GPI) were to just pull up stakes and leave, are they going to leave that contamination?” said Gloy, who recalled when the plant in its heyday employed 250 people. (The Sturgis Journal)

Although it was a difficult decision, the 1987 Gaston graduate felt the time was right to pull up stakes and head east. (The Gadsden Messenger)

The pair who recently ditched their sprawling Canada mansion to up sticks and move to America have hinted at the possibility of making another addition to their gorgeous family. (The Mirror)

The middle classes, accustomed to constant mobility while valorising the home as a place of comfort and safety, balk at the thought of being unable to up sticks at will. (The Guardian)

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