Understanding the Idiom: "settle upon" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

When we make decisions, we often use idioms to express our choices. One such idiom is “settle upon.” This phrase is commonly used to describe the act of making a final decision after considering various options.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “settle upon”

The idiom “settle upon” has a rich history that dates back centuries. Its origins can be traced to the Middle Ages when feudal lords would grant land to their vassals in exchange for loyalty and military service. The act of settling upon a piece of land was seen as a formal agreement between the lord and his vassal, signifying trust and commitment.

Over time, the meaning of “settle upon” evolved to encompass more than just land agreements. It came to represent any decision or choice made after careful consideration and deliberation. In this sense, it became synonymous with terms like “decide on,” “choose,” or “opt for.”

The Modern Usage of “settle upon”

In modern times, the idiom is used in various contexts, from personal decisions like choosing a career path or buying a house to business decisions such as selecting a vendor or finalizing a contract.

The phrase has also found its way into popular culture, appearing in literature, music, and movies. For example, in Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (1811), one character advises another: “When you have learned propriety [etiquette], I hope you will advance your principles; that is very important.” To which the other responds: “What do you mean by my principles? My conduct must be guided by my feelings…I am not ashamed of having been mistaken — only sorry that any harm should have ensued from it.” The first character then replies: “Settle your notions of propriety [etiquette]and learn justice;”


Usage and Variations of the Idiom “settle upon”

The idiom “settle upon” is a versatile phrase that can be used in various contexts to convey different meanings. It is commonly used to describe the act of making a decision or choice, but it can also be used in other ways.


The most common usage of the idiom “settle upon” is to describe the process of making a decision or choice. For example, one might say “I have finally settled upon a career path.” In this context, “settle upon” means to make a final decision after considering all options.

Another way the idiom can be used is to describe an agreement or resolution between two parties. For instance, one might say “After much negotiation, we were able to settle upon a fair price for the car.” Here, “settle upon” means to come to an agreement after discussion or debate.


There are several variations of the idiom “settle upon” that can add nuance and depth to its meaning. One such variation is “settled on,” which has a similar meaning but implies more decisiveness in the decision-making process.

Another variation is “settled with,” which implies some level of compromise or dissatisfaction with the outcome. For example, one might say “I settled with buying this car because it was all I could afford.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “settle upon”


– Choose

– Decide on

– Opt for

– Select

– Pick out

These words can be used interchangeably with “settle upon” in most contexts. They all convey the idea of making a decision or choice after considering options.


– Undecided

– Indecisive

– Hesitant

– Ambivalent

– Uncertain

These words represent the opposite of “settling upon”. When someone is undecided or uncertain, they have not made a decision yet and are still considering their options.

Cultural Insights:

The idiom “settle upon” is commonly used in Western cultures where individualism is valued. Making decisions independently and confidently is seen as an important trait. In contrast, some Eastern cultures prioritize group consensus over individual choices. In these cultures, phrases like “we decided on” or “we chose together” may be more common than “I settled upon”.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “settle upon”

In order to fully grasp the meaning and usage of the idiom “settle upon”, it is important to practice using it in various contexts. The following exercises will help you become more comfortable with this common English expression.

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blank

Choose the correct form of “settle upon” to complete each sentence.

  1. I couldn’t __________ which restaurant to go to for dinner.
  2. After much deliberation, we finally __________ a date for our wedding.
  3. The committee has yet to __________ a decision on the new policy.
  4. She was thrilled when she __________ her dream job after months of searching.

Exercise 2: Role Play

Practice using “settle upon” in conversation by role playing different scenarios with a partner. For example:

  • A group of friends trying to decide on a vacation destination
  • A couple discussing where they should live
  • A team at work deciding on a project proposal

Exercise 3: Writing Prompt

Write a short paragraph or story that includes at least two instances of “settling upon”. This exercise will help you think creatively about how this idiom can be used in different contexts.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “settle upon”

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

Mistake Correction
Using “settle on” instead of “settle upon” The correct form of the idiom is “settle upon”, not “settle on”.
Using the wrong preposition after “settle upon” The correct preposition to use after “settle upon” depends on the context. For example, you might settle upon a decision or settle upon a course of action.
Confusing “settle upon” with other idioms “Settle upon” should not be confused with other idioms such as “settled in”, which means to become comfortable in a new place, or “settled up”, which means to pay off a debt.

To avoid these common mistakes, it’s important to take the time to learn about the idiom and its proper usage. By doing so, you can ensure that your communication is clear and effective.

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