Get the Axe – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to say that someone has been fired or laid off, but would like a more informal phrase to say it with? The saying ‘get the axe’ is a common figurative saying in the English language that can refer to involuntary unemployment. This phrase unpacks the meaning, origin, and correct use of the expression.

Meaning

The phrase ‘get the axe’ is a common figurative saying in the English language.

‘Get the axe’ is used to mean that someone has been (or is going to get) fired from a job, or involuntarily removed from a task.

The saying can be used as a statement, as a response, or as a question depending on the context of what is being said.

‘[To] get the axe’ is an informal way of being fired or dismissed from something, usually career or job related.

The phrase has somewhat evolved to include other contexts for use, including the abrupt end of a relationship or marriage.

Negative use of the phrase would mean the opposite, and say that someone ‘does not get the axe’ or ‘has not gotten the axe’.

‘Axe’ is the most common spelling in the United Kingdom and Australia, while ‘ax’ is the most common spelling used in the United States.

A similar phrase is to ‘get the boot’, though the phrase is less common for situations that reference career or job related events.

Example Usage

“If you don’t read the manual for work but tell your boss that you did, you’re probably going to get the axe and have to find another job by next week.”

“You really want to know what I’m doing here instead of serving burgers? I got the axe because I was putting tissues under the cheese in most of the burgers.”

“We gave other guy the axe. We know he needs the money, but he just wouldn’t stop doing this thing with the pineapples in front of the other staff.”

“He’s going to get the axe tomorrow morning. You just don’t put your behind in a photocopier anymore. That was funny in the early nineties, but isn’t now.”

Origin

Most online language resources don’t attribute a direct origin to the phrase ‘getting the axe’ as a modern speaking phrase or expression.

The word ‘axe’ is documented to have come from Old English, where it was first spelled as æx and later adapted for use in modern English.

The phrase ‘to get the axe’ was already in popular use by the 1900s in news and other media; the phrase is likely to have originated before the 1800s, and it’s a likely figurative reference to war and/or politics – where an ‘axe’ would have removed a soldier or politician from their work by death.

The phrase is listed on the website Urban Dictionary from the year 2007.

Phrases Similar to Get the Axe

  • Get the boot
  • Get the can

Phrases Opposite to Get the Axe

  • Get the job

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Get the axe
  • Getting the axe

Ways People May Say Get the Axe Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can misuse or misunderstand the phrase ‘get the axe’ in conversation or writing.

‘Get the axe’ refers to getting dismissed or fired, though might also refer to the abrupt end of a relationship, marriage, or other task.

The most common misuse of the phrase is ‘axe’ versus ‘axe’, where the first is UK and Australian spelling, and the second is most common in the United States.

In certain languages, the phrase might have no meaning when directly translated.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Get the Axe

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase ‘get the axe’ in the correct manner, including to say that someone ‘has gotten the axe’ or is ‘going to get the axe’ to say that they are going to be fired from their jobs.

The phrase does not always imply something related to careers or jobs, but can imply the abrupt end of any task.

In the negative, the phrase can also be used to mean that someone ‘won’t get the axe’ or that they will not be fired or dismissed.

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