I came across the phrase, ‘Take hits’ in the headline of Washington Post article (July 20) titled, ‘Federal workers will take hits in any deal’ which is followed by the following sentence:

“No matter how the debt crisis ends, federal employees will take a double dose of a bitter pill. Even the best-case scenario of Congress and the White House agreeing on a plan to raise the debt ceiling would have federal employees taking a hit through whatever medicine is prescribed for Americans in general, in addition to money-saving measures aimed directly at the federal workforce.”

From the context of the above sentence, I interpreted “take hits’ implies ‘take a hard blow or damage.’ As I was unable to find definition of ‘take hits’ in dictionaries at hand, I checked into online dictionaries, and found that there is no entry of ‘take hits,’ but ‘take a hit’ meaning ‘inhale through the nose’ with one accord in Free English language Dictionary, Audio English net and www. definitions net.

Is my understanding of “take hits” in the sense of ‘get a blow’ right? Why apparently ordinary phrase like ‘take hits’ is registered in neither in ordinary dictionaries nor in online dictionaries, though ‘take a hit’ is registered in online dictionaries under sole definition, ‘inhale through the nose,’ which does not seem to me applicable to the above context?

1 Answer 1


Your initial instinct that take a hit is equivalent to taking a hard blow or damage is right. It took some digging, but I found the corresponding definition in the Oxford Dictionary:


a verbal attack: I think people will try to take a hit at my credibility

So to figuratively take a hit means that one is being hit by some sort of non-physical attack, usually in the form of a verbal barb. Although this definition doesn't mention it, this phrase is not particular to a verbal attack. Searching for "take a hit" leads to many news articles which refer to the economy "taking a hit"--as long as the object is taking some sort of damage.

The other meaning you found, regarding inhaling via the nose, refers to drug use. Thus people talk about taking bong hits, or a hit of marijuana.

  • I learned a new, interesting phrase, 'take some digging' from your answer, which I’m unfamiliar with. I checked Google and found many examples of the use of this phrase without locating its definition. I guess it means ‘need to make some more study‘or ‘need to look into further.’ Am I right? Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 11:28
  • 1
    You are close. 'Take some digging' means 'requires concerted effort to find something that is hard to find'. Think about digging for buried treasure.
    – jimreed
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 14:06
  • The example you give from Oxford is quite different; that one means "seize a chance to strike at", not "receive a blow".
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:16
  • +1 Thanks so much for this. None of the mainstream online dictionaries even come close to providing this definition. And your added clarification is appreciated.
    – user40248
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 17:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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