I need help with a word in some part of the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Random House, 2018)

The Tarahumara immediately gave chase. The two canny old vets, Sebastiano and Herbolisto, boxed Jenn in from the front while the three other Tarahumara surrounded her on the sides. Jenn looked for a gap, then burst loose and pulled away. Instantly, the Tarahumara swarmed and bottled her back up.

I can't understand what is the meaning of "bottle her back up"?

  • 3
    ... boxed her in again. Jun 20, 2020 at 11:16
  • It looks like it means “surrounded her”, depending on the wider context. She’s not a genie, is she?
    – Gazebo13
    Jun 20, 2020 at 11:42
  • @EdwinAshworth: It's odd that we can say that, whereas it seems virtually impossible to talk about having bottled her in again, even facetiously. Jun 20, 2020 at 13:51
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers We box in, we bottle up. Go figure.
    – David K
    Jun 20, 2020 at 20:39
  • 1
    @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- But you usually pour the contents into the bottle by letting them flow downward.
    – David K
    Jun 21, 2020 at 2:23

3 Answers 3


Instantly, the Tarahumara swarmed and bottled her back up.

The verb is "to bottle up", e.g.

We bottled him up.

You can think of this as metaphor of keeping something confined inside a bottle.

The word back is not part of the verb - it is an adverb. It means roughly "again" or "once more", e.g.

We bottled her back up means We bottled her up again/once more.

A stricter definition of this sense of back, is given here:



  1. so as to return to an earlier or normal position or condition: "she put the book back on the shelf" https://languages.oup.com/

From Merriam-Webster


transitive verb

1b to put or keep in a position or situation that makes free activity, progress, or escape difficult or impossible —usually used with up

So, approximately:

got her back into a position where escape was impossible


I can't help but think the bottling up is a different idea than the surrounding actions of the group. One bottles up a wild spirit or Genii. Her name is Jenn. One surrounds and captures the escaped fugitive. It looks to me as if they went overboard with the descriptions of surrounding, blocking off gaps and closing in. Finally when the capture is on he cannot help but use the bottle up description.

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.