The phrase up and at ’em (commonly construed as ?up and Adam) is used a lot. Where did it originate?


3 Answers 3


I think it's a contraction and conflation of two orders Get Up! (meaning 'stand and prepare') and Get At Them! (meaning 'attack them'). The and is narrative, meaning 'and then'.

Both of these get's are causative/inchoative senses of be, and therefore phrases like be up and be at them also exist. The rest is just idiom formation, and occasionally spelling confusion and eggcorn creation.


The phrase is "up and at 'em" or more accurately "up and at them". According to the Phrase Finder, it probably comes from the military with the full command being "Up, Guards, and at 'em!"

  • 3
    That quotation is from Wellngton at Waterloo, but I find it hard to believe the phrase wasn't in use earlier. Jun 5, 2012 at 21:41

We use this phrase a lot in Newfoundland where most of our people originated in Ireland. We use the phase as a way to say “get up and start working/moving”.

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