On a Tear – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell your friend you’re out on the town with other people having the time of your life? You could say you’re “out on the tear” and that they should join you for a drink. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


If you’re “on a tear,” it means that you’re out having a good time with friends. Typically, “being on a tear” means that you’re with a group of people, and you are all intoxicated and having a good time. You could be at a club or cruising the town on a bar-hopping night out.

Being “on a tear” can also refer to a streak of wins or good luck due to excellent performance. For instance, a sports team could be on a tear of good results, or your company could be on a tear of excellent sales performance.

Example Usage

“We’re out on the tear right now in Piccadilly. Why don’t you join us for a drink, and we’ll hit the club after that to dance a bit?”

“The Knicks are on a tear right now. They’ve won eight of the last nine and haven’t lost in over three months. Let’s see if the Celtics can put a damper on the flames.”

“Kim is on a tear right now. Every project that the girl touches turns to gold. I’m hoping she lands us the next big deal, so we all get that Xmas bonus.”

“John, you’ve been on a tear these last few months. No one has come close to matching your sales performance, and I want you to know that the C-suite notices your efforts.”

“Keep it up, Tom. You’re really on a tear this month. If you close the month at the top of the books, you are a contender for salesman of the year.”

“The manager is on a tear right now. He’s looking for any way to cut costs, and I heard him talking about downsizing the labor force the other day.”

“China is on a tear right now to secure the world's food resources. With the coming global food crisis on the horizon, we’re not doing enough now to add to US food security.”


The expression “on a tear” has no clear origins, and language experts cannot find the source of the saying or when it first appeared in writing. However, some experts believe the expression comes from the 1800s.

The original use of the expression was for describing people going on a “drunken tear” through the local area. However, over the last three to four decades, the phrase changed to describe any action in teams or people where they are building momentum to achieving success.

Phrases Similar to On a Tear

  • Running riot.
  • On a mission.
  • Gaining momentum.

Phrases Opposite to On a Tear

  • Chilling.
  • Falling behind.
  • Meh.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • “On a tear.”

Ways People May Say On a Tear Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with the action of tearing something. The “tear” in the expression is the act of “going wild” or producing a lot of energy and momentum with your actions or words. The phrase also has a positive connotation and has little use in the negative sense.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase On a Tear

You can use the expression “on a tear” to describe enthusiastic, energetic behavior gaining momentum. If you are on the tear, you are probably out on the town having a good time with your friends. If someone text’s you while you're out partying and wants to know what you’re doing, you could say you’re out on the tear with your classmates from school.

“Out on the tear” can refer to behavior like partying. Or it can refer to the momentum building in a sports team as they start to develop a lead over the opposition. The phrase describes a person or a group of people and suits social or professional conversations.

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