Under one’s belt

Under one’s belt is an idiom with an origin that goes back several hundred years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 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, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom under one’s belt, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Under one’s belt is an idiom that means something that one has acquired, especially a talent, knowledge, or experience that one has acquired. Having something under one’s belt is the process of accruing successes. The expression under one’s belt first came into use in the late 1700s-early 1800s, and was used as the expression of a tally of how many alcoholic beverages one had consumed. Over time, the phrase under one’s belt came to mean consuming food, also. By the 1920s-1930s, under one’s belt came to mean to acquire knowledge, talent or experience.


Justin is an excellent student and has quite a full roster of Ellenville High School sports under his belt. (The Shawangunk Journal)

With 15 novels under his belt in the Longmire series and more than 3 million books sold, Johnson certainly has a formula that works. (The Tallahassee Democrat)

Several days ago, this time with many long bike rides under my belt, I felt myself identifying a little more with all the cyclists gathering for the Dirty Pizza. (The Monadnock Ledger-Transcript)

With a whole new level of mental and physical training under her belt, she came back ready for conquer her final year of cross country. (The Clinton Herald)

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