teacher: "put your books up"

//meaning to put away our books to be ready to take the tests

What is the meaning of the example above?

I am confused as it doesn't make much sense if you translate the words separately

  • 1
    Can you please give some more context? "Put your books up" sounds like an instruction to students to quit reading and put their books away. – JLG Apr 21 '12 at 4:31
  • Without context, I have no idea what the teacher is asking them to do. – Colin Fine Apr 21 '12 at 12:44

Up is not always the antonym of down, particularly in verb phrases such as put up, shut up, show up, or end up. In this case, "put up your books" is essentially the same as "put away your books."

The translation doesn't make sense only if you mistakenly translate the words put and up as two separate words, instead of as the transitive verb put up.

Besides meaning to put away, put up can also mean to erect (as in, the city put up a new building), to hang, as a picture (put up some posters for next week's concert), to tolerate (she put up with his bad manners), to provide housing for (we put up our in-laws for a week), or to place for sale (the estate was put up for auction last week).

  • Is this regional? And if so, to which region? I just had two native speakers of American English disagree about this. I've lived in many English speaking countries and I've never heard it before. – Andreas Mueller Dec 25 '16 at 22:36
  • @AndreasM - in its entry for to put up, the OED says: "to store, stow away; to lay aside," with an example usage from back in 1910: ‘Put up your toys,’ he said, ‘and come along.’ Yet that same entry also says: Now chiefly U.S. regional – so maybe it's not a widespread usage. – J.R. Jul 5 '18 at 17:11

Put up can mean a variety of things, depending on context and usage. In the situation given, though, it means "return the object (book) to a not-ready-to-use condition", i.e. close the book and place it back on the shelf, or in your desk, or in a corner of the table.

Per the definitions at m-w.com, the teacher is using it in sense 1(a) or 1(d).


I think it may be a regional idiomatic expression. I grew up in Indiana and my mother and I both use this expression. My husband, who grew up in California, makes fun of me for saying this. I'm glad I found this page so I can prove it's not just something weird that I say.


One sense of this idiom is with regard to foodstuffs. If one "cans" (in jars) or otherwise preserves foodstuffs (as from their garden) then they are said to have been "put up", as in "We put up ten quarts of green beans this week."

I've always regarded this sense as figuratively referring to the placing of the jars "up" on a shelf in the "cellar", where all the winter food was stored. (Though note that the same idiom would be now be used to refer to placing food in a freezer for long-term storage.)

So far as I know, this sense is fairly common (though obviously less so with the years) through the US Midwest, especially areas with any rural connections.

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