Up to Speed – Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Up to speed means being in the know or updated about a particular subject. Think of it like this: you walk into a meeting late, and you ask, “Can someone get me up to speed?” Essentially, you’re looking for the highlights or a quick summary. That’s the beauty of idioms; they sprinkle our conversations with vibrant metaphors, making language more relatable and fun.

An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. They’re crucial in any language because they capture the culture, history, and humor of its speakers.

Curious about its origin and eager to master its use? Stick around, and I’ll guide you through its fascinating journey and how to seamlessly weave it into your conversations.

Up to Speed Meaning Explained

Up to Speed – Meaning and Origin

At its core, the phrase up to speed means having the latest information or being proficient in a particular subject. We use it to refer to understanding a situation, catching up on missed work, or simply being current with the latest news or updates.

How Do You Bring Someone Up to Speed?

  • Hiring a Babysitter: When hiring a new babysitter to watch your kids, you usually show them where the snacks are and important phone numbers and discuss bedtime routines to get them up to speed about taking care of your child.
  • After Returning from Vacation: When a colleague returns from a long vacation, you might forward them important emails or updates to get them up to speed on what they missed.
  • A New Job Role: When someone transitions into a new role in the company, a mentor or senior employee might provide training sessions to bring them up to speed with their new responsibilities.

Origin and Etymology of Up to Speed

Up to Speed Ngram
Up to speed usage trend.

The term “up to speed” has a few origin stories: machinery, racing, and horse breeding.

Most sources state that it comes from machinery and engineering and refers to the moment a machine reaches its optimal speed or performance.

Others claim it’s deeply rooted in racing, whether horse or car racing. Getting up to speed in this sense means keeping pace with the other racers to reach optimal performance.

Then there’s the whole idea of breeding horses for racing. A young horse might be inspected by racers, and the owners told to train it in order to bring it up to speed, aka get the animal ready for racing.

Either way, the intent has held up over the years, and now the idiom is used to describe anything that needs a little push to get started.

Synonyms for Bring Up to Speed

  • Inform
  • Update
  • Brief
  • Enlighten
  • Acquaint

Using ‘Up to Speed’ in a Sentence

Up to Speed – Meaning and Origin 1

  • I need someone to catch me up to speed on what I missed during the conference in San Diego.
  • We brought the new intern up to speed on our systems with a comprehensive training program.
  • Before making a decision about this expansion, ensure all stakeholders are up to speed on the details.
  • The new software update helps users get up to speed with the latest features quickly and on their own time.
  • I read the morning news with my coffee every day to stay up to speed on global events.
  • After his long sabbatical, it took Dave a week to get up to speed on the things he missed at the university.
  • “Catch me up to speed,” she said, sipping her coffee.

Not to Fast

Being up to speed is all about staying informed, updated, and ready to tackle challenges head-on. So, are you feeling up to speed with idioms now? At least you are with this one! But if you’re craving more idiomatic knowledge, check out my other guides on our site!

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: