run up: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘run up’ mean?

The idiom "run up" means to accumulate or increase something, typically a debt or a bill. It suggests the idea of quickly and continuously adding to a particular amount or total. For example, if someone "runs up" a credit card bill, they are continuously adding charges and increasing the amount owed.

Idiom Explorer

Unraveling Idiomatic Significance

The idiom "run up" is a commonly used phrase in the English language with multiple meanings and applications.

One meaning of "run up" is associated with accumulating or increasing a balance, typically in financial or credit-related matters. This is seen in phrases like "rack up a debt" or "charge up a bill." It implies rapid or continuous growth, often leading to excessive debt or escalating expenses.

Another interpretation of "run up" involves a sudden and swift approach or movement towards a target or destination. For example, when saying "run up to someone," it signifies advancing quickly towards a person. Similarly, "run up to something" can indicate physically moving towards an object or location with haste.

While the idiom is most commonly used in a literal sense, it also has metaphorical applications. For example, in the phrase "run up against something," it represents facing or encountering an obstacle, challenge, or opposition. It conveys the notion of encountering difficulties or barriers that impede progress.

Additionally, "run up" can describe the act of quickly creating or completing a task or action. For example, "running up a report" may refer to the rapid production or completion of a written document. This usage signifies speed and efficiency.

In specific domains, such as sports or politics, "run up" is used to describe certain actions or situations. In sports, "running up the score" refers to a team significantly increasing their lead over the opposing team. In politics, "running up the flagpole" suggests testing or presenting an idea or proposal publicly.

The idiom "run up" encompasses several meanings and uses in American English. It can refer to the accumulation or increase of a balance, the swift approach towards a target or destination, the encounter of obstacles or challenges, or the speedy completion of a task. Its versatility allows it to be applied in various contexts, providing speakers with a concise and expressive way to convey specific ideas or situations.

Example usage

Here are three examples of how the idiom "run up" can be used in a sentence:

  1. He ran up a huge credit card bill after his shopping spree.
  2. The team ran up a high score in the basketball game.
  3. She ran up the stairs to catch the train.

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