Roll up one’s sleeves

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Roll up one’s sleeves is an idiom that has been in use for over 150 years. We will examine the meaning of the idiom roll up one’s sleeves, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To roll up one’s sleeves means to prepare to work, to get ready to tackle something difficult, to commit to getting something done. The idiom roll up one’s sleeves comes from the very real gesture of rolling up one’s sleeves before working on something dirty or messy. The idea is that one is ready and willing to get one’s hands dirty, in this case, figuratively, with honest labor. Related phrases are rolls up one’s sleeves, rolled up one’s sleeves, rolling up one’s sleeves. The idiom roll up one’s sleeves came into use in the mid-1800s.


City of Mount Gambier is encouraging members of the community to roll up their sleeves and help contribute to an unpolluted environment for Clean Up Australia Day this Sunday 1 March 2020. (Mirage News)

Our hope is that most advisors employ a robust service model, but times like these require you to roll up your sleeves and make as many extra outbound calls as you can. (Barron’s)

“I don’t want to forgive myself, but if I roll up my sleeves, I can show the world the suffering I’m seeing on this journey.” (The Herald-Mail)