..but I came up short 100 dollars.

In this sentence, I cannot figure out the meaning of "came up" and "short". The closest meaning I found with "come up" was "to occur unexpectedly" but no example anywhere used that with a person. As for "short", no dictionary entry I found was suitable. I would really appreciate some help here, as I do hear that quite often in this context (like be sth short?).

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    Side note: the opposite is "being long" as in "having a surplus of" – Erno Jan 25 '18 at 11:19
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    “Came up short $100” sounds very odd to me. The meaning is clear (when they counted, they found that they had $100 too little for whatever the present need was), but the word order is strange. I would have said “came up $100 short”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 25 '18 at 16:31
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    A related phrase is "fell short." It indicates a failure to achieve a desired outcome. The pole vaulter fell short of clearing the bar. The campaign fell short of raising the money needed. – lit Jan 25 '18 at 16:34
  • There is a good discussion of "short" in english.stackexchange.com/questions/118899/… – lit Jan 25 '18 at 16:51
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    In what way were the answers you found unsuitable? I searched "come up short" and got "[to] be insufficient" which fits very well. (Is this actually an ELL question?) – Gossar Jan 26 '18 at 1:13


short adjective

(3.1) short of/on Not having enough of (something); lacking or deficient in.

the implication is "came up short of money by 100 dollars", but some of the words have been left out.

also "come short" on the same OED page

come short

(1) Fail to reach a goal or standard.

so it seems a mixture of "come up" and "come short"

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    I don’t think that the “com short” definition fits the above example. It is too expressions 1) come up and 2) short of – user067531 Jan 25 '18 at 7:47
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    The ODO entry for "come short" has the following example: "we're so close to getting the job done, but we keep coming up short". Feel free to add it to your answer if you think it helps. – Lawrence Jan 25 '18 at 16:26
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    (a) 159 is correct in that the dictionary reference does not explain OP's usage. (b) ODO is not OED. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '18 at 16:47
  • Think of it in terms of distance. You are walking in the forest and come across a big hole in the ground, five metres across. You try to jump across it, but come up two metres "short". You fall into the hole die. It's like that. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 25 '18 at 21:47

This use of "short" has been described as a "transitive adjective" by Geoff Pullum in the Language Log blog post "New transitive adjectives".

I think the following definition of "to come up" from Merriam-Webster is relevant:

5 : to turn out to be · the coin came up tails

Actually, I think that example isn't a great illustration of the "turn out to be" meaning of "come up", since when talking about a coin the word "up" could be interpreted as referring to the physical orientation of the coin. But MW also lists a idiom that seems similar to the expression used in your sentence:

— come up empty
: to fail to achieve a desired result

  • The first sentence contains the correct answer to OP's title question ('... was short 100 dollars' being as acceptable as '... came up short 100 dollars'). The Pullum article needs precising here. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 25 '18 at 16:58

Short is straight forward from the definition


5 a : not coming up to a measure or requirement

Short and long are used in financial. E.G. short a stock.

Come up is a common term.

4 a : to come to attention or consideration
the question never came up

Came up refers to the action of counting. Short is less than the expected amount.

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