(from an article in The New Yorker about Donald Trump's campaign)

Asked by the Associated Press about the possibility of a Trump Presidency, she said, “I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the noun grab as

  1. : a quick attempt to take or get something
    : the act of taking something in a forceful or illegal way
  • Is perhaps the expression “up for grabs” derogatory?
  • Is it an American English saying? What would a British English person say instead?
  • Does "everything is up for grabs" mean the same as You can grab up everything?
  • 1
    Nothing is certain. In particular here, no legal issue can be considered settled.
    – deadrat
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 7:23
  • As regards your American/British question, the term is commonly used in British English. See Cambridge & Oxford Dictionaries.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 11:58
  • I've always visualized the idiom "up for grabs" as having some stuff in a bag hanging from a cord above the heads of a bunch of people, with folks in that crowd leaping to try to grab the bag. I don't know if this is anywhere near the origin of the idiom, but it does convey the meaning -- that we don't know who, if anyone, will grab the bag, and until that happens things will remain unsettled.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 18:12

2 Answers 2



referring to the link above "up for grabs "is an idiom means:

available for anyone; not yet claimed

The election is up for grabs. Everything is still very chancy. I don't know who will get the promotion. It's up for grabs.

in total chaos

This is a madhouse. The whole place is up for grabs. When the market crashed, the whole office was up for grabs.

The first definition doesn't really fit the quote, because when Trump has claimed the Presidency it's not available anymore!

Also note that the idiom "up for grabs" exists in both American and British English with the same meaning. Reference: http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/up-for-grabs http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/american/up-for-grabs

Hope it helps you


Besides available, "up for grabs" also means "not firmly decided"; presumably the etymology for this was something like "available to be changed".

I can't find a dictionary definition saying this, but consider these sentences taken from Google books.


Even if this is so, it is still up for grabs whether God is in some sense posterior to some of His constituents


Between this beginning and end Pip's destiny seems up for grabs as he is lured away from virtue by the ignis fatuus of gentility


Nothing seems to be sacred. Nothing is forbidden. Everything is up for grabs.

If you substitute available for up for grabs, these sentences don't make any sense.

So your sentence means:

I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything could change.

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