Shape up or ship out

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Shape up or ship out is an idiom that first appeared in the mid-twentieth century. We will examine the meaning of the idiom shape up or ship out, where came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Shape up or ship out is an admonition to improve one’s work product, attitude, behavior, or performance or be fired or made to leave. The shape up portion of the expression refers to putting things into good order or coming up to exacting standards. The ship out portion of the admonition means to leave. The phrase shape up or ship out came into use during World War II in the U.S. Navy as an admonition to a sailor that he must either come up to the Navy’s standards or be transferred–perhaps to the brig! Returning World War II veterans brought the idiom home to civilian life.


Demands that he shape up or ship out were surfacing on social media and have found their lightening conductor in Galloway. (The Scotsman)

As the aggressive drive to upgrade sports facilities in the country gathers momentum, the Ministry of Sports has put contractors working on stadium projects on notice to shape up or ship out. (The Daily Nation)

Parliament has told the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) of South African Airways (SAA) to “shape up or ship out” as the process of saving the national carrier has drowned millions of rand, with no final rescue plan in sight after five months. (The Independent)