When someone says "woke up" is it assumed that the person was sleeping in the horizontal position? Do they physically have to move up after they regained consciousnesses?

Would it be correct to apply this phrase to a person who was sleeping upright or any other position for that matter?


He was hanging upside-down with his ankles tied to a branch then he woke up.

Or should I use

He was hanging upside-down with his ankles tied to a branch then he awoke.


  • 5
    "woke up" has nothing to do with position. It has to do with regaining consciousness after sleeping. Jun 3, 2016 at 17:57
  • 1
    They may well have been sleeping while driving and woken up just as they drove into a bridge abutment. ("Up" does not imply anything about physical position.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 3, 2016 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


You would use it as you would in any other situation. Waking up has nothing to do with position.

From the ODO:

wake, v.

Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep; stop sleeping.

Looking at definitions from both the ODO and OED I cannot find anything related to position and waking up. The closest I can find are the following from the OED

wake, v.

    1. e. Of things, conditions, etc.: To be stirred up or aroused; to be put in motion or action. Also with up.
    1. a. To rouse to action, activity, alertness, or liveliness. Const. to, into. Also with up.

Where position is implied but only in the sense of changing it, not what it starts or ends as.

  • Isn't there an old example of apparent oxymoron: "I woke up when I fell out of bed"? In English, sleep and wakefulness are conceptualized as down and up, respectively: we "fall" asleep, and the more tired we are, the "deeper" our sleep is likely to be; people who are knocked out can come "up to consciousness" and similarly, things of which we are not consciously aware can "rise up" or "be called up" to consciousness. So even though your body doesn't necessarily move opposite the pull of gravity, your state of awareness has moved "up" when you awake.
    – 1006a
    Jun 3, 2016 at 19:03
  • @nedibes Exactly, but that doesn't have to do with the physical movement of one's body up or down, but more a movement of one's mental state. Also the phrase "I woke up when I fell out of bed" isn't really an oxymoron, and the movement isn't from waking up, but rather it is causing it. Jun 3, 2016 at 19:05
  • Yes, I was just trying to explain why we would never say "woke down" or "woke around" etc. regardless of our physical position. Re: "fell down, woke up"--I know it's not an actual oxymoron, which is why I said "apparent" (that might have been one of my insta-edits of the comment, made while you were composing your comment). I have a vague memory of this as a joke or part of a comedy routine, which I unfortunately can't find--the Beatles song lyrics confound my search results.
    – 1006a
    Jun 3, 2016 at 20:24

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