worked up: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘worked up’ mean?

The idiom "worked up" means to be in a state of agitation, anxiety, or excitement. It often implies that someone is overly emotional or upset about something, sometimes to the point of becoming irrational or exaggerated in their reactions.

Idiom Explorer

Untangling Emotion

The idiom "worked up" is a commonly used expression in English. It refers to a state of extreme excitement, agitation, or anxiety. This phrase originates from the Old English verb "to work", which means to exert physical or mental effort. The addition of the adverb "up" intensifies the meaning, suggesting an increase in emotional or mental activity. The idiom is idiomatic in nature, as its meaning cannot be deduced from the individual words it comprises.

The use of the idiom "worked up" is versatile. It can describe someone who has become emotionally worked up and is experiencing heightened feelings of anger, frustration, or distress. Alternatively, it can also describe someone who is eagerly excited or enthusiastic about something. In both cases, the idiom implies that the individual's emotions or mental state have reached an elevated level.

This versatile idiom can be found in a wide range of contexts, from everyday conversations to formal writing. It is often used colloquially, allowing individuals to convey their emotional states succinctly. The idiom adds depth and emphasis to one's description of an intense emotional experience, effectively capturing the intensity of the individual's feelings.

The idiom "worked up" is not limited to any specific region; it is widely used throughout the United States. Due to its long history and frequent usage, the idiom has become ingrained in the English lexicon, making it readily understood by native speakers.

She worked herself up and became emotional.

While the exact origins and early instances of use of the idiom "worked up" are difficult to trace, the phrase likely evolved gradually through the organic development of the English language. Its usage can be observed in literary works and popular culture, reflecting its integration into everyday speech.

It is important to note that the idiom "worked up" can also have a literal meaning, unrelated to its idiomatic usage. In this literal sense, the phrase simply describes the act of physically or mentally exerting oneself, such as working intensely on a project or becoming engrossed in an activity. However, in the context of this article, we focus solely on the idiomatic usage of the phrase.

Exploring the meaning and usage of the idiom "worked up" provides valuable insights into the rich and diverse nature of the English language. Language is inherently dynamic, constantly evolving to meet the needs of its speakers. This idiom exemplifies the myriad ways in which idiomatic expressions are employed to convey nuanced emotions, allowing individuals to succinctly express their innermost feelings.

The idiomatic phrase "worked up" is closely related to the idiom "boil up". Both idioms convey a heightened emotional state. While "worked up" emphasizes the mental or emotional aspect, "boil up" emphasizes the metaphorical heat and intensity of the emotions, likening them to boiling water. These idioms serve to describe situations in which individuals are deeply affected by their emotions, with strong feelings bubbling to the surface.

Another related idiom is "in a right state". This idiom shares similarities with "worked up" in that it describes a heightened emotional state. However, "in a right state" implies a state of distress or agitation, suggesting that the individual is feeling overwhelmed or upset. The idiom conveys a sense of being out of control emotionally, as if one's emotions have spiraled into a state of chaos.

The idiom "up the walls" is also related to "worked up" as it conveys a similar sense of heightened emotions. "Up the walls" refers to a state of extreme agitation or frustration. It suggests that the individual's emotions have reached such a peak that they are figuratively climbing up the walls. This idiom vividly captures the intensity and restlessness of the individual's emotional state, emphasizing the heightened level of their emotions.

Example usage

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

  1. I got all worked up about the presentation and ended up forgetting my notes.
  2. She was really worked up when she found out her flight was cancelled.
  3. He tends to get worked up easily when discussing politics.

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