Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I know it means to go to sleep but where did it originate from. I'm looking for first use. Just curious.

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

Mattresses used to be stuffed full of hay, or were sacks full of hay. Thats why we say "hit the hay" or "hit the sack."

share|improve this answer
Source to backup my answer: phrases.org.uk/meanings/182700.html –  Ted Ballou Nov 22 '10 at 16:27
And I recall reading/hearing once that it was pretty normal to "fluff up" the hay prior to laying down by punching the mattress/sack. Hence "hit". –  Hot Licks May 20 at 21:18

In the entry for sack on the Online Etymology Dictionary:

Slang meaning "bunk, bed" is from 1825, originally nautical. The verb meaning "go to bed" is recorded from 1946.

share|improve this answer

The OED has it from 1943 in James J. Fahey's Pacific War Diary, 1942-1945:

I hit the sack at 8 P.M. I slept under the stars on a steel ammunition box two feet wide.

It's in the same entry as the earlier hit the hay, from 1912 in Dialect Notes:

Hit the hay, to go to bed.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.