Wake-up call

Wake-up call is an expression that has a literal and a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is an idiom. 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 wake-up call, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The literal meaning of wake-up call is a phone call that the desk clerk makes to a person staying in a hotel or motel to wake him up. A traveler sometimes uses a wake-up call instead of an alarm clock, especially if he has an important appointment scheduled that he must not miss. The idiom wake-up call means an event that makes someone understand that something must change in his attitude or his life. For instance, if one develops an unrelenting cough, it may be a wake-up call to quit smoking. If one’s credit card bill is high, it may be a wake-up call to draw up a budget. The idiom wake-up call to mean an event that alerts one to the need for some sort of change or action came into use in the 1960s. The plural form of wake-up call is wake-up calls.


Another summer of flooding should be a wake-up call to redesign our communities (The Brookings Institution)

Central Park ‘Hercules’ is a heartfelt wake-up call for Disney (The New York Post)

Business group issues wake-up call on China’s corporate ‘social credit’ plan (Reuters)

The cross-continent debacle should serve as the rabbinate’s own wake-up call – both in Israel and in the Diaspora. (The Jerusalem Post)

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