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I haven’t any idea of whence the phrase come on could have originated. There seems to be little purely denotative sense that can be made of the phrase. What were the circumstances under which it was first coined, and what is the back-story to this interesting phrase (which I’m sure has some involved history)?

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I find the most interesting use of this phrase to be in relation to sport, motivation, or both. Whether used towards oneself or someone else, it seems as if the intention or feeling behind the term is twofold: both one of celebration and motivation. When a football team scores a goal or even concludes an effective passage of play; when a tennis player wins a particularly good or important point; at the start of a match or game or part of a game when the crowd wish to spur their team or player on to success. I think what is also so fascinating about the phrase is that it could possibly be the o –  user47302 Jul 5 '13 at 19:50
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This appears to be merely the latest in a long chain of expressions with both come and go. OED 1 finds, s.v. Come,

"33.b. As a call or appeal to a person to bethink himself, implying impatience, remonstrance, or, more usually, mild protest or deprecation on the speaker's part. Often emphasized by repetition, or by the addition of such words as now, then, but."

—to which we may in the 20th century add on. The earliest citation is dated 1340. Go, go up, go on have similar uses.

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My reading is that when you say "come on" you are urging someone or something to finish acting absurdly and start being sensible. So "come on!" in the sense of an exclamation is from the literal sense of "come on" as "move forward!".

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Please add facts, references, or specific expertise which verify your answer. –  MετάEd Sep 3 '12 at 18:57
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It's another way to say "Turn on," but in a more personal and direct sense, implying one requires mental state adjustment.

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I don't believe this is the case at all. "Turn on" does not mean the same as "come on!". –  Matt Эллен May 31 '13 at 8:51
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