show up: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘show up’ mean?

The idiom "show up" means to appear or arrive at a specific place or event, often unexpectedly or in a surprising manner.

Idiom Explorer


The idiom "show up" primarily means to attend or appear at a specified time or place. It is often used in reference to events, meetings, or appointments where someone is expected to be present. This notion of 'showing up' can be likened to making an appearance or coming up in situations where one's presence is required or anticipated.

In addition to its literal meaning, the idiom "show up" can also have a figurative connotation. It can imply surpassing expectations or proving oneself to be more capable or skilled than initially perceived. When someone exceeds what is expected or goes beyond the norm, we can say that they 'showed up' and pulled up on their potential.

The term "show up" is widely used in both informal and formal contexts and is considered a common part of everyday language. Regardless of the setting, the idiom conveys the idea of being present, making yourself known, and pulling up on your commitments.

Interestingly, the origin of the phrase "show up" is not definitively known. However, various theories suggest possible connections to the world of theater and performance. In theatrical contexts, actors are required to show up for rehearsals and performances, enhancing the notion that the idiom may have evolved from these practices.

Show up and make your presence known.

Similarly, the idiom "show up" shares similarities with the idiomatic expression "make an appearance," which means to attend or be present at a particular event or gathering. Both phrases emphasize the importance of physically being there and making your presence known.

In a different context, the phrase "show up" can also be linked to the idiom "come up." When we say that something has come up, it means that an unexpected situation or event has arisen. Similarly, when someone shows up unexpectedly, it can be seen as popping up or coming up without prior notice or planning.

The idiom "show up" can be associated with the phrase "pull up on." When we pull up on something, we approach it with determination and readiness. If we pull up on our commitments, we take them seriously and give our full attention to fulfilling them. In this way, showing up can be seen as pulling up on our promises and responsibilities.

The use of the idiom "show up" is not limited to a particular region or audience. It is widely understood and interpreted in various English-speaking regions. The simplicity and versatility of the phrase allow it to be used in different contexts and situations, making it a valuable part of the English language.

The idiom "show up" denotes attending or appearing at a designated time or place. It can also imply surpassing expectations or proving oneself. The phrase has possible origins in theater and performance contexts, and it shares similarities with idioms such as "make an appearance," "come up," "pull up on," and "pop up." Regardless of its origins, "show up" is a widely recognized and utilized idiom that adds richness and complexity to the English language.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom show up can be used in a sentence:

  1. He didn't show up for the meeting yesterday. (to attend or appear at an event or appointment)
  2. She always shows up late to class. (to arrive or appear, especially unexpectedly or at a particular place)
  3. The new employee showed up in a fancy suit. (to present oneself, especially in a particular way or appearance)

More "Verb" idioms