Up in arms

Up in arms is an idiom that has been in use for several hundred years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression 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, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, 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. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase up in arms, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Up in arms means to be extremely upset about something, to be angry, to be appalled, to be incensed. If someone is up in arms he is highly agitated about something or shocked by something and is usually vocal about it. The expression up in arms includes the noun, arms, meaning weapons. The term in arms was originally used in the 1500s to mean someone carrying weapons and ready to fight. By the 1700s, the phrase up in arms came to mean to be highly agitated about something, but without the brandishing of weapons.


When the Metropolitan Transportation Authority walks into Community Board 8’s transportation committee room, they should already understand that our community is up in arms over these proposed service cuts. (The Riverdale Press)

In a bizarre incident, an entire village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district was up in arms against a 32-year-old woman who filed cases of rape against four identified and 35 unidentified persons at the cantonment police station. (The Khaleej Times)

Janitors in Singapore earn more than us’: Malaysia’s medical grads are up in arms over incentive cuts – here’s what we know (The Business Insider)

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