I'm translating Bob Marley's song "Get up, stand up" and, consulting my dictionary, I can't understand the difference between these two verbs.

I have understood the overall meaning of this song, of course, but I'd like to understand why Bob Marley chose these two verbs.

What is the difference in nuance between "getting up" and "standing up"?

  • This question seems to really be about interpreting lyrics which is outside the scope of this site. Nevertheless, there isn't really a difference. It's about taking a stand. Extending the metaphor a bit, by asking one to literally "get up", it implies one is currently "down" (e.g. oppressed) or on the floor (bottom of society). Again, I don't think this is suitable for the site.
    – Zairja
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 16:40
  • You may find the different senses in which these phrases are used in any good dictionary. Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 16:51
  • @Zairja I'm sorry if the question can be undestood as a question about interpreting lyrics. My dictionary gives me the same translation for "get up" and "stand up" so, thinking that the difference between this two verbs is a very little difference, I have wanted to explain why I ask this question. I don't want any interpretations of the song and I'm sorry if I haven't passed that.
    – sunrise
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 16:53
  • 1
    Sorry -- not a translational dictionary, which rarely gives you much more than rough synonyms, but an English dictionary, something of this sort. Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 17:10
  • 2
    What Zairja said. It's Off Topic lyric interpretation. @sunrise - FWIW I'd say in that specific context Marley meant Get up off your lazy ass, and stand up for your rights. Contradicting Zairja slightly, I don't think get up significantly alludes to oppression - if he'd wanted that, Marley could have used "Rise up, stand up". Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 17:14

3 Answers 3


I think that there is a connotational difference between the terms.

  • Get up clearly denotes an action. You are lying or sitting down, now move, get up.
  • Stand up can denote the same thing with regard to physical action.

However, stand up also connotes standing firm, in a sense, a lack of motion, a resolve. This is especially so since it is followed by your rights, which completes a common slogan stand up for your rights. We shall not be moved.

Taken together, the phrases suggest Rise up and stand firm for your rights!


Literally, 'stand up' means you are starting from a lying, sitting, kneeling or otherwise "low" position and at the end you are standing.

'Get up' can mean that, but also means 'wake up' or 'get out of bed'. The result doesn't have to be standing; you can "get up" and end up in a sitting position.

Others have commented on the metaphorical uses of the two, where 'get up' is more about becoming active and 'stand up' is more about resisting.


This is a rhetorical technique of repetition that has been called synonymous parallelism. It is more common in poetry. In the example given, “stand up” reinforces “get up” by repetition.

Hebrew poetry (Biblical poetry) is well known for it. For example, in the following passage, the second line parallels the first line using synonyms:

But let judgment run down as waters,
and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Amos 5:24

Old English poetry uses the same technique. Often the synonyms they used are themselves the result of a word-invention technique called kenning or compounding, such as “swan-road” for “ocean”.

Hroðgar maþelode, helm Scyldinga
[Hroðgar replied (Scyldinga-protector)]

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