Think on one’s feet

Think on one’s feet is an idiom with an uncertain origin. We will examine the meaning of the idiom think on one’s feet, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To think on one’s feet means to be able to think quickly, to respond immediately, or to come to a good solution without a long period of deliberation. The idea is that one is agile in his ability to think and act. The idea behind think on one’s feet may come from the image of someone speaking before an audience, especially if one is fielding questions or debating an opposing viewpoint. Today, think on one’s feet may refer to public speaking, or it may refer to someone who can respond quickly to changing circumstances. Think on one’s feet came into use sometime around 1900. Related phrases are thinks on one’s feet, thought on one’s feet, thinking on one’s feet.

Examples

When Mount St. Mary’s University announced it would send students home and move classes online as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Nick Hutchings had to think on his feet of how he would continue teaching his sculpture class. (The Frederick News-Post)

Later in the week, the net closes in on Cameron and he’s forced to think on his feet as Zav goes to extreme lengths to prove that Cameron can’t be trusted. (The Sun)

“I was privileged to learn this field in one of the fasted growing markets in the South, and because of that I am able to think on my feet and negotiate through hard deals,” Blank said. (The Newport News Times)