I came across the phrase, “suck it up and go” in the columnist’s answer to a question from a reader of Carolyn Hax's column in Washington Post’s “Lifestyle” section (July 2nd). The Q&A titled “Ever the aunt, never the godmom” begins with the following sentence:

“Dear Carolyn: We just got an invitation to the baptism of my seventh nephew on my husband’s side. Once again we were not considered as godparents. I felt snubbed. -- Is this a legitimate snub? Should I talk to my sister-in-law about it?”

and Carolyn answers:

“Boycotting the baptism in a wounded huff would be petty, yes, and that’s the main reason to suck it up and go - but you also need to go because nothing would undermine your own purpose more tidily than staying home.”

I checked the meaning of “suck it up and go” in English Japanese dictionaries at hand only to find one of them shows “suck it and see” meaning “to try” as a British and Australian usage. Online dictionaries register “suck it (up) and “go suck,” but not “suck it up and go.”

What does “suck it up and go” mean? Is it an American version of “suck it and see”?

  • A common connotation is that the person who should "suck it up" is making too big a deal out of something. That is, stop complaining and just do whatever it is.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 3 '11 at 4:21
  • 1
    The phrase "suck it up" contains a literal component. For example, when two people are in a heated discussion and one of them says something he shouldn't have said, the other person (who was likely offended) can do one of at least two things: 1) take umbrage and lash back with something equally offensive; or 2) suck in a deep breath and in that instant determine NOT to take offense or lash back. The literal "deep-breath" is a way of taking a moment to clear one's head, as it were--kind of like "counting to 10" before doing something rash. Once your head is clear, you continue talking. Nov 7 '15 at 18:37

The idiom suck it up meaning to stoically endure hardship in order to achieve some objective, or meet expectations, seems to have started to gain currency in the mid-1970s.

A somewhat graphic etymology put forward in Urban dictionary is that it's pilot slang. If you vomit into your mask, you'd better suck it up. Otherwise, you can inhale it and die. I can't deny that may be true - but I'd rather not think about it too much!

Here's a Wiktionary "talk" page dismissing the WW2 pilot slang origin. Their actual entry for the phrase says it probably derives from "suck up one's chest", but I must say "suck in one's stomach" is more common for stand tall and straight, stoically ready to be judged/subjected to adversity. Whatever - I'll just say the origin is "uncertain".

The italicising of suck it up and go is by OP. The and go [to the baptism] isn't part of the idiom - it's just the hardship to be endured in this particular case (the aunt obviously doesn't want to go if she's still not to honoured as a godparent).

Obviously this idiom is unrelated to suck it and see (try out an idea). Interestingly, there's also suck it all in (to wholeheartedly embrace all aspects of a novel experience or environment). But to suck in the sense of "be inferior" also got started in the 70's, and is now ubiquitous, along with suck my dick. So quite likely "positive" idioms like suck it all in will fall into disuse because they clash with the more common negative usages.

  • 2
    @Fingers. After posting this question, I realized my primitive mistake of combining ‘suck it up’ and ‘go’ together as an idiom. It was separate word blocks meaning ‘put up with it (feeling of being snubbed by her sister-in-law),’ and ‘go to the baptism.’ Am I right?
    – Yoichi Oishi
    Jul 3 '11 at 5:05
  • 1
    @Yoichi Oishi: Don't be apologetic. You didn't know the idiom, so you couldn't be expected to know exactly which words were part of it. I just mentioned the fact that you italicised and go incorrectly to make it clear that these words are not part of the idiom. Jul 3 '11 at 5:10
  • 2
    Perhaps "take a deep breath" is a good image for "suck it up"
    – horatio
    May 10 '12 at 16:26
  • 1
    @horatio: I certainly agree that "take a deep breath", "stand up straight [with chest out and shoulders back]", and "pull your stomach in" all convey the general sense of brace yourself. But the first two imply ...to meet adversity, where the last one better suits ...for inspection/judgement. That's why I can't fully go with Wikipedia's etymology. May 10 '12 at 16:43

The phrase suck it up means to put up with something, deal with with it, without complaining. Carolyn answers that she should deal with the fact that she isn't a godparent, not complain and silently attend the baptism as invited.

  • 1
    More likely "she" as the letter-writer says "my husband" (yes, it could be a gay couple).
    – mkennedy
    Jul 3 '11 at 4:19
  • Haha, your comment is so hilarious! Thanks, edited.
    – Frantisek
    Jul 3 '11 at 4:22

suck it up is akin to get over it or brace yourself. It implies resistance against some action but, if really desired, one could deal with it or just do it.

"Suck it up and go" means the same thing, but in this example it specifically refers to going to the baptism. The aunt feels snubbed and, therefore, sees the baptism very negatively. To "suck it up and go" means to put those feelings aside and approach the baptism as a positive thing in order to support her sister-in-law.

  • 2
    PS: This is completely tangential, but suck it up is drastically unrelated to suck it down.
    – MrHen
    Jul 3 '11 at 1:58

I always inferred that this was a metaphor for the act of hardening your abdominal muscles so that you could take a punch to the gut without flinching. (Not something I have any literal experience of! So I don't know for sure if sucking in your breath would do the trick, but that was my assumption.) The expression means to demonstrate toughness by enduring something unfair or unpleasant staunchly, with minimum fuss - because the act of doing so both preserves dignity and makes whatever it is easier to endure.

Lately I heard the aviation theory about what you would need to do if you vomited into your mask - I guess that works, but ... yeuchhhh!


It may go back to at least the early 60s as a term in the football context.

1968 autobiography excerpt describing the 1960 death of a professional football player:

“Glenn was moving slow as if cramped. 'Howard, you O.K.?' I asked. 'I I'm sick,' he said, 'I gotta go out.' Then another voice said, 'Naw, stick in here Glenn. Suck It up.' “


Early mention: Baytown Sun Monday, August 28, 1961, Baytown, Texas “Gander trainer George Crow told one of the Ganders to suck it up once too”


  • Nice find. A fuller quote of the 1961 article is "Looks like Gander trainer George Crow told one of the Ganders to 'suck it up' once too often. He was sporting three stitches in two cuts Sunday; one across his nose, the other under his left eye. To tell the truth, it was a car door. George opened it and forgot to move his face. He says."
    – DavePhD
    Aug 28 '18 at 6:07

When a boxer is being treated between rounds, one of the common treatments is to put a glob of some sort of astringent on a Q-tip up the nose to try to stop a nosebleed.

The trainer will often tell the fighter to inhale sharply to get the medicine to the point of bleeding by telling them to literally 'suck it up' their nose. Not saying this is the actual origin, but it seems to me to be a good contender (pun intended).

  • StackExchange generally discourages speculation in answers; it leads to chatty dialog. Though I did laugh at your pun.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 31 '15 at 17:15

There is not much use of phrase in its current meaning in the google book corpus until 1994 or so but I definitively heard it in mid-70s as well.

Here is a 19th-century interpretation of Psalm 75:8:

Verse 8. "Shall wring them out." Here's the necessity also of it; it is unavoidable; "They shall drink it," that is, even against their minds, whether they will or no. It is very likely that wicked men would be very loath to come to this condition: they can be content to sin, but they cannot endure to be punished for sin... This cup shall not pass from them, but they shall drink of it, even against their stomachs, where they never so much loath it. Yea, and which is more, they shall suck it up; God will turn the cup up to them, and will make them to take it every jot; he will not spare them one drop of it, which they shall be suffered to leave behind..... The Lord himself (as I may say) will stand over them, and see them do it without any favour or indulgence.—Thomas Horton.

In Psalm 75:8, God provides red wine as punishment that you need to drink down to the dregs.

My best guess is that it came from the pornographic trope of accepting all of the ejaculate in oral sex.

From Joyce's Ulysses:

I often felt I wanted to kiss him all over also his lovely young cock there so simple I wouldnt mind taking him in my mouth if nobody was looking as if it was asking you to suck it so clean ...

It probably started in the sports context as metaphor for domination. I am the coach and you need to accept all of these sports related difficulties without complaint just like you would ....

At some point, it lost some of the oral rape metaphor context, but not all because the phrase still has connotations of domination and fear of being female or effeminate.

Think about what the word "buttercup" is doing in the "suck it up, buttercup" law.

  • It seems like you're starting your answer with a literal usage of the phrase "suck it up," which is not what the OP is looking for. Also, "my best guess" doesn't really answer a question, as it's your opinion, which is then not backed up with a reference. You have a reference after you state your opinion, but it doesn't use the phrase. Looking for idiomatic usages of the exact phrase, and backing up your interpretation with research that refers to the original phrase, would make for a better answer. Nov 17 '16 at 23:35
  • There is no idiomatic use in google books until 1994. The literal use of "suck it up" from the 19th century describes receiving an inevitable poison/hardship as required by an authority figure. "Suck it up" Nov 18 '16 at 18:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.