sit on: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘sit on’ mean?

The idiom "sit on" means to delay or withhold something, often information or a decision, intentionally or without taking any action.

Idiom Explorer

Unpacking the Significance

Sit on is an idiomatic expression with multiple meanings. One common meaning is when someone is deliberately withholding or not taking action on something, implying a sense of procrastination or delay. For example, if someone says, "I asked my boss for a pay raise, but he's just sitting on it," it means the boss is not making a decision or taking any action regarding the pay raise request.

Another meaning of sit on is to signify one's domination or control over something. It is often used when a person has significant influence or power over a particular matter. For instance, if someone says, "She sits on the board of directors," it implies that the person holds a position of authority and decision-making power within the board.

In addition, sit on can also describe a person who is comfortably taking advantage of a situation or enjoying a position without doing anything to deserve it. This suggests a sense of idleness or taking things for granted. For example, if someone says, "He's been sitting on his inheritance for years and hasn't done anything with it," it suggests the person is not utilizing or making the most of their inherited assets or wealth.

The idiom sit on has evolved over time from its literal meaning of sitting without taking action. Its figurative use has made it a common and versatile expression in the English language. It is prevalent in both spoken and written English, used in informal conversations, literature, and even professional settings to convey specific ideas and attitudes.

Sit on the chair.

While the exact origin and etymology of sit on are unknown, its various meanings and usage have solidified in the English language. The flexibility and adaptability of this idiom contribute to its continued relevance in contemporary English.

The idiom "sit on it" is a related expression that can add emphasis or urgency to the act of sitting on something. It can be used to convey a sense of frustration or impatience with someone who is deliberately withholding or delaying action. For example, if someone says, "I've been waiting for a response from my boss for weeks, and he just keeps sitting on it. I wish he would make a decision already," it amplifies the feeling of frustration and impatience.

"sit on one's hands" is another related idiom that conveys a sense of inaction or passivity. It is often used to describe a situation where someone is not taking action or getting involved when they should. For example, if someone says, "Our team has been struggling, and our manager is just sitting on her hands instead of providing guidance or support," it suggests that the manager is being inactive or unhelpful.

The phrase "on hold" is also related to the idiom sit on. When something is put on hold, it means there is a delay in taking action or making a decision. It can be used in various contexts, such as in business or customer service settings. For example, if someone says, "I called customer service, but they put me on hold for over an hour," it means there was a delay in assisting the customer.

The expression "sit tight" is another related idiom that conveys a sense of patience or waiting for something. It is often used to encourage someone to remain in a particular position or situation without taking immediate action. For example, if someone says, "We're facing a difficult situation, but we need to sit tight and wait for more information before making a decision," it suggests the importance of patience and not rushing into action.

Example usage

- I can't just sit on my hands and do nothing while the company is facing a crisis.

- The teacher asked the students to sit on their ideas until everyone had a chance to participate.

- He decided to sit on the information until he knew how to use it to his advantage.

More "verb" idioms