What's the origin/etymology of "[ABC] came at [XYZ] life?"

The definition according to Urban Dictionary is

A phrase that is used in past tense to describe a situation in which another person knowingly attacks and defiles you as a person based upon an action you have done, resulting in their nasty rebuttle [sic]. Note- Sometimes results from doing nothing at all. Similar to chewing someone out, or personally attacking one's character. Can be used in future tense such as "Don't make me come at your life." Or present tense "I'm coming at your life right now!"...

The definition is dated from November 2010, so it's not new, but not old either.

Searching for "came at my life" on Google brings up 309,000 results, and is mostly on social media sites and forums. It's definitely informal; not very widespread (unlike something like, say, "fleek", which has almost 14,000,000 hits).

"came at her life" brings up 486,000 results, "came at his life" has 517,000 results, "came at their life" has 283,000 results, and "came at their lives" a mere 2 results.

"come at my life" gives us 309,000 results, "come at his life" brings up 4 results, "come at her life" brings 508,000 results, "come at their life" has 6 results, and "come at their lives" has 5 results.

It's worth noting that some of these results are not used in the slang terms, such as this blog:

Traditionally people talk about New Year Resolutions, it's a time when people come at their lives again, they assess their lives and ask...

My friends and I used and heard it a lot from when we were in high school in Maryland, so it was a natural part of our vocabulary. We all graduated this year and now attend college in District of Columbia, where it appears to be fairly unknown, which is a bit of a shock for us.

Any help with figuring out the origin is greatly appreciated!

1 Answer 1


Use of this phrase predating the internet (by a few centuries)

According to this ngram* the phrase come at his life was first used in print around 1890.

I have found that the term was actually used earlier (by quite some time) in a book called A Complete Collection Of State-Trials And Proceedings For High-Treason And Other Crimes and Misdemeanours. The passage I refer to seems to date from somewhere in 1743 (that's in the top right corner of the page). Also note that these proceedings are from Britain, so the phrase seems to have originated in Britain rather than the US (or it would have been used even before that in the US and the British got it from them, but that's pure speculation).

The sentence in question is quoted with the Google Book quote tool (the actual text is quite hard to read, it the quote tool misquoted some parts, so I manually fixed some of the mistakes, , the parts I cannot clearly make out are put in italic). The quote is as follows:

"This now offered is a further Proof of my Lord Anglefa's Opinion concerning his Right; and to corroborate that Evidence that has been already laid before the Court, we have a Right to produce it, as a further Inftance of this Lord's own Opinion, that it was neceffary for him to come at his Life at any rate."


I think the meaning in the court proceedings might be similar to the meaning you cite from the Urban Dictionary: some type of attack, assault, perhaps even murder or manslaughter (but this is pure speculation on my part). I am not sure though, it's not very pleasant to read an I have only looked at the passage I quoted.

Ngram parameters

The ngram parameters I used are stated below. The asterisk is a wildcard which may represent any word, the ngram tool will see which words are common in that place and show those results.

come at * life
come at * lives
came at * life
came at * lives

It only showed results for "come at his life".


2 Hargrave, Francis. A Complete Collection Of State-Trials And Proceedings For High-Treason And Other Crimes and Misdemeanours: Commencing With The Eleventh Year of the Reign of King Richard II. And Ending With The Sixteenth Year of the Reign of King George III.: With Two Alphabetical Tables To The Whole. London: Bathurst, 1778. Click here for the highlighted passage on Google Books.

  • Yay, an answer! It was very insightful, thank you so much!
    – Kasenjo
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 2:30

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