Stay on top of

Stay on top of is an idiom with an uncertain source. 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 stay on top of, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To stay on top of is to keep abreast of, to remain informed about, to be completely aware of what is happening. For instance, a manager may stay on top of an employee, meaning she will keep track of the work that the employee is doing and guide that employee. An investor may stay on top of his finances, meaning he will keep track of his earnings and losses and will manage where his money goes. The origin of the expression stay on top of is unknown; however, it came into popularity in the mid-twentieth century and may have evolved from marketing or business jargon.


Make a list of all the tasks you have to complete or work on during the day and refer to it from time to time so that you stay on top of things. (Free Malaysia Today)

We want to make it easier for registered training providers to stay on top of your main reporting obligations as a condition of your registration.  (Mirage News)

“Based on a recent consumer report, organizations need to stay on top of privacy regulation as it is constantly evolving.” (Security Magazine)

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