Sizing Up – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the term ‘sizing up’ somewhere on the internet and need to know what it means? The word usually means “to approximate someone’s ability (at something), usually physical” but TikTok users have attributed a whole new meaning to this common saying. This post unpacks the meaning and origin behind this common expression.

Meaning

The term ‘sizing up’ is a common expression that is used in the context of two opposing people, when one opponent measures the ability or aptitude of the other.

Most references to ‘sizing up’ can sometimes refer to opponents, but can also be used in joking or humorous context. Someone can, for example, “size up” a cheeseburger before they eat it to measure it against their capacity to eat it.

Other references to ‘sizing up’ can be used in a general sense when estimating someone’s traits or personality from far away. Someone can, for example, “size up” their blind date in the first couple of minutes before they proceed with the rest of the day.

In this way, ‘sizing up’ is used as a general expression of measurement.

But on TikTok and other social media websites, ‘sizing up’ has received another meaning that refers to someone’s sexual ability or the ‘size’ of their hips in relation to sexual performance.

The term ‘sizing up’ with sexual connotations has triggered a selection of reaction videos on TikTok, which has only added to the alternative meaning of the word.

In 2022, this TikTok ‘sizing up’ reaction challenge would give the term new publicity and lead to coverage in the media as an alternative meaning to sizing someone up.

Example Usage

“Before you take someone to your-place-or-theirs, you should size them up first to see if they’re, you know, the right one for you.”

“Size them up first to see if their hips don’t lie, then decide if you want to call them back for a second date.”

“I told my grandson I had to size him up for the baseball game, and he explained that it now means a TikTok sex thing.”

“If you don’t know what someone thinks about you, ask them out to your place for a sizing up.”

Origin

The early origins of the term ‘sizing up’ can be found as early as the 19th Century and before, when people were “sizing up” their opponents in boxing, wrestling and other sporting matches and events.

The term ‘sizing up’ has several entries on websites like Urban Dictionary, where it is said to mean approximating someone’s aptitude at something.

More recent entries of the term ‘sizing up’ attribute a sexual meaning to the word.

The sexual meaning of the term ‘sizing up’ originates from Urban Dictionary, where the alternate definition was erroneously listed by a user in 2021 so that the results would appear in Google search results.

Combined with this, users on TikTok were challenged by a user in 2021 to post “reaction videos” to the real meaning of the term ‘sizing up’.

A sudden flood of reaction videos on TikTok would bring new meaning to the term ‘sizing up’, and this would soon be picked up by other social media websites and eventually mainstream news.

Phrases Similar to Sizing Up

  • Measure

Phrases Opposite to Sizing Up

  • Ignore

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Sizing up
  • Sizing Up

Ways People May Say Sizing Up Incorrectly

There are ways to say the term ‘sizing up’ incorrectly or misunderstand its meaning.

The term ‘sizing up’ can have sexual overtones when used on TikTok and similar social media platforms in 2021, but the original meaning of the term still has much more to do with approximating someone’s ability (or humorously measuring the size of something).

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Sizing Up

The term ‘sizing up’ is still acceptable in its first and original meaning, and it should not be confused with the second sexual meaning that has been made popular on TikTok and other social media websites.

If you are sizing someone up, then you are measuring them on some trait or ability that they have versus your own. It is used mostly as a means of comparison or measurement, which is sometimes intended to be humorous.

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