Take It Up A Notch – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to tell someone that they should pull their socks up, but with a different saying? The phrase ‘take it up a notch’ is a common saying in the English language that is used to mean that something (or someone) should heighten their capacity or performance. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the saying.

Meaning

‘Take it up a notch’ is a common figurative saying in the English language that is usually used to mean that something or someone should (or is going to) increase their performance or capacity.

When someone ‘takes it up a notch’ then it is implied that their intensity or dedication to the task at hand is going to (or has) increased.

The phrase can be used to refer to inanimate processes, emotions, or tasks that are performed by people.

The phrase can be said directly to someone, though it can also be used as a third-party reference or statement in conversation.

Someone can use the phrase with serious, joking, or sarcastic implications.

The phrase’s context is generally said by the participants, or implied by the discussion.

‘Not take it up a notch’ is the rarer, negative form of the phrase that implies someone is not going to go past their capacity in this case.

Someone can also ‘take it down a notch’ as the opposite, or ‘tone it down’.

Example Usage

“If you don’t take it up a notch tomorrow at work, they’re probably going to fire you by Monday morning. Read the manual like the boss told you to.”

“We’re going to take it up a notch. Let’s see what this stun gun can do when we set it to seven.”

“We’re going to take it up a notch with our exercise routine. Instead of just running, we’re going to do some squats too. Why are you crying?”

“We’ll need to take it up a notch or we’re never going to make more money than Tesla by selling cookies.”

Origin

According to online language resources, the phrase ‘kick it up a notch’ is likely to have appeared some time between the late-1500s to the 1800s.

While most language resources do not give the origin for the entire phrase, the word ‘notch’ came into use in the 1500s and was likely absorbed into the familiar expression later.

‘Notch’ was originally a form of measurement, and it can be assumed that the expression might have been more literal in meaning at the time of its origin.

Urban Dictionary records the phrase ‘kick it up a notch’ from 2004, which is one common derivative of the saying.

Phrases Similar to Take It Up A Notch

  • Pull up your socks
  • Kick it up a notch

Phrases Opposite to Take It Up A Notch

  • Take it down a notch
  • Scale it down

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Take it up a notch
  • Taking it up a notch
  • Kick it up a notch

Ways People May Say Take It Up A Notch Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase ‘take it up a notch’ in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the phrase.

When someone says ‘take it up a notch’ the meaning is assumed to be known, but might not.

The phrase originated in English, and might not translate well as a direct phrase to languages that have their own equivalent expression.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Take It Up A Notch

There are several ways to use the phrase ‘take it up a notch’ correctly in conversation or in a text.

The phrase can be used as a statement or as a response, and it can be used to refer to situations or to actions that are performed by people.

Someone can also use the phrase in the opposite form to say that someone has ‘not taken it up a notch’, or that they have ‘taken it down a notch’ as acceptable use.

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