Up And At ‘Em - Meaning, Origin and Usage


This phrase is a colloquial version of the words ‘up and at them’. It means waking up and starting a day filled with activities. It could also mean getting out of bed and accomplishing tasks for the day.

You can use this phrase whenever you have important tasks to finish once you wake up. Additionally, you can use this idiom to indicate you’re busy or have many things to do.  This phrase has a sense of urgency to it, especially when there are numerous things to tackle within the day.

Consider these two examples in constructing sentences using this idiom:


  • You have to be up and at ’em by eight AM if you want to catch the earliest bus to your destination.
  • My sister has to be up and at ’em early on weekdays since she needs to go to school, but she always oversleeps.

How To Use It In Sentence

It can be challenging to use idioms naturally if you’re not too familiar with them. You may find it even more challenging to include them in a sentence or insert them in conversations. However, you can keep a few tips in mind to help you learn how to use artistic phrases during different situations.

Additionally, keep in mind that the rules when using figurative terms can vary depending on your intention and the context of your sentence. Here are a few helpful points to guide you in learning how to use the idiom ‘up and at ‘em.’

  • This idiom is commonly used during informal conversations.
  • You can use it if you want to tell someone to wake up and get moving.
  • The version, ‘up and at them’, can be used if you’re writing or speaking in a more formal manner.
  • You can use the phrase if you want to refer to someone who is busy or has many things to do.

If you’re speaking with someone you’re not close to, it’s advisable to use the more proper form ‘up and at them’ since the shortened version with the word ‘em’ is slang.


The term ‘up and at ‘em’ is derived from ‘up and at them.’ Soldiers used this during World War I to communicate and tell each other when to get out of their pits and march forward towards their enemies. The shortened version is commonly used in day-to-day conversations as slang to denote the same meaning.

Fun fact: Up and at 'Em is also a silent film from the 1920s. It's a romantic comedy film that revolves around deception and trickery. This 50-minute movie came about after World War I died down.

Similar Phrases

There are many figurative phrases with a similar meaning as the idiom ‘up and at ‘em.’ If you wish to communicate your thoughts differently, you can use them whenever you have the chance. Doing so will help improve your vocabulary and better understand the context of some commonly used idioms.

  • Rise And Shine: It's a term you can use if you want to wake someone up or say it’s time to get out of bed.

Example: Rise and shine, sleepyhead! It’s Monday. You need to go to school early.

  • Break Of Dawn: The start of the day. A time when the sun isn’t out yet. A period shortly before sunrise.

Example: We don’t want to get caught in traffic, so we need to leave at the break of dawn.

Phrases That Mean The Opposite

Some idioms have an opposite meaning to the expression ‘up and at ‘em.’ Here are a few:

  • Hit The Sack: This means you’re about to go to bed or rest after a long day.

Example: I had a long day, and I can’t wait to go home and hit the sack.

  • Take It Easy: To rest or to relax and avoid a heavy workload.

Example: I’ve been working all year, so I deserve to take it easy during the holidays.


Learning idioms is an excellent method to improve your English skills. It will help you understand the context behind expressions commonly used by English speakers and enable you to express yourself better. Once you familiarize yourself with the use and meaning of phrases like ‘up and at ‘em,’ you’ll find it easier to express your thoughts without any problems.

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