Understanding the Idiom: "feel up" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
  • (to caress): pet, tit up, touch up; fondle

When it comes to understanding idioms, it can be a bit tricky. These expressions often have meanings that are different from their literal definitions. One such idiom is “feel up.” This phrase is commonly used in informal settings and has a specific connotation that may not be immediately clear to non-native speakers.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “feel up”

The idiom “feel up” is a colloquial expression that has been used in English language for many years. It is often used to describe a situation where someone touches or gropes another person in an inappropriate way. The origins of this phrase are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in the United States during the mid-20th century.

During this time period, there was a growing awareness of sexual harassment and assault, particularly in the workplace. Women were increasingly speaking out about their experiences with unwanted advances and physical contact from male colleagues and superiors. The term “sexual harassment” had not yet been coined, so people often used euphemisms like “feeling up” to describe these behaviors.

Over time, the meaning of “feel up” has expanded beyond its original context. Today, it can be used more broadly to refer to any situation where someone is being touched or examined in a thorough or invasive way. For example, a doctor might say they need to “feel you up” during an exam.

Despite its evolution over time, the origins of this idiom remain rooted in issues related to power dynamics and consent. It serves as a reminder of how language can both reflect and shape cultural attitudes towards sensitive topics like sexuality and bodily autonomy.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “feel up”

When it comes to idioms, their usage can vary greatly depending on the context in which they are used. The same is true for the idiom “feel up”. This phrase has several different meanings and interpretations that can change based on who is using it and why.

One common use of this idiom is to describe a physical act of touching someone inappropriately or without their consent. However, this interpretation is often considered offensive or vulgar and should be avoided in polite conversation.

Another variation of this phrase involves using it to describe someone’s emotional state. For example, if someone says they’re feeling up, it means they’re feeling happy or optimistic about something. On the other hand, if someone says they’re feeling down, it means they’re feeling sad or depressed.

In some cases, this idiom can also be used to describe a situation where someone is being manipulated or taken advantage of by another person. For instance, if someone feels like they’re being “felt up” by their boss at work, it could mean that their boss is trying to exploit them for personal gain.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “feel up”


Some synonyms for “feel up” include:

– Grope

– Fondle

– Molest

– Harass

These words all share a negative connotation and describe actions that are considered inappropriate or even illegal. It is important to note that these actions should never be tolerated or excused.


On the other hand, some antonyms for “feel up” include:

– Respect

– Honor

– Admire

These words represent positive behaviors and attitudes towards others. They emphasize the importance of treating people with dignity and respect rather than objectifying or harassing them.

Cultural Insights:

The phrase “feel up” is often associated with sexual harassment in American culture. It is important to recognize that this behavior is not acceptable and can have serious consequences both legally and socially. In many cases, victims may feel ashamed or embarrassed about what has happened to them, which only adds insult to injury. By using respectful language and demonstrating appropriate behavior towards others, we can help create a safer environment for everyone.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “feel up”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

In this exercise, you will be given a sentence with a blank space where “feel up” should be inserted. Your task is to choose the correct form of “feel up” that fits best in each sentence.

Exercise 2: Role-Playing Scenarios

In this exercise, you will practice using the idiom “feel up” in different scenarios through role-playing. You can either do this exercise alone or with a partner.

Sentence Possible Answers Correct Answer
I don’t think he’s interested in me. He never ________. a) feels me up b) feels up c) feels himself up d) all of the above b) feels up
The boss was really impressed with my work and ________. a) felt me up b) felt herself up c) felt me out d) all of the above c) felt me out

Scenario Instructions
At a party You are at a party and someone you don’t know very well starts touching you inappropriately. Use the idiom “feel up” to tell them to stop.

By completing these exercises, you will become more confident using the idiom “feel up” in different situations. Remember to always use the idiom appropriately and respectfully.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “feel up”

When using idioms, it’s important to understand their meanings and how they should be used in context. The idiom “feel up” is no exception. However, there are common mistakes that people make when using this phrase.

Avoiding Sexual Connotations

The most common mistake when using the idiom “feel up” is associating it with sexual connotations. While the phrase can be used in a sexual context, its primary meaning refers to physically examining or exploring something or someone with one’s hands.

To avoid confusion or offense, it’s best to use this idiom only in appropriate situations where its intended meaning is clear.

Avoiding Inappropriate Use

Another mistake when using the idiom “feel up” is applying it incorrectly. This can occur when trying to use the phrase as a substitute for other idioms or expressions that have different meanings entirely.

It’s essential to understand what this particular idiom means and how it should be used before incorporating it into your speech or writing. Otherwise, you risk miscommunication and misunderstandings.

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