Boxing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

So, that’s where the name comes from.

As you know, I’m fascinated by idioms and how their origin. The Passive Guy recently alerted me to a great post by Daily Writing Tips that includes 45 idioms from the world of boxing. Thanks to the Planetary Defense Commander for correcting a couple of them.

  1. bare-knuckle: fierce or determined (from boxing done without gloves)
  2. beat (someone) to the punch: accomplish something before someone else does
  3. blow-by-blow: a detailed account (referring to commentary during a boxing match)
  4. bob and weave: be evasive (as a boxer ducking to avoid an opponent’s blows)
  5. come out fighting/swinging: be immediately aggressive or energetic
  6. deliver/land a (knockout) blow/punch: hit
  7. down and out: destitute (an analogy to a boxer who has been knocked down and remains motionless)
  8. down/out for the count: defeated or overcome (as a boxer who has run out of time to stand up after being knocked down)
  9. drop/take off the gloves: abandon civility (from the practice of using bare fists rather than gloves)
  10. duke it out: argue (likely from dukes as rhyming slang for fists; “duke of Yorks” was substituted for forks as slang for fingers or hands)
  11. glass jaw: a boxer who gets knocked out a lot / easily
  12. go down swinging: persist (from the notion of a boxer fighting up to the point at which he or she is knocked out)
  13. have (someone) in your corner: have an ally (from the boxer’s support team, positioned in a corner of the ring)
  14. heavy hitter: an influential person or other entity (from the term for a boxer who lands particularly hard punches)
  15. heavyweight: see “heavy hitter” (from the boxing and wrestling weight class)
  16. hit below the belt: act unfairly (from the act of landing a blow below an opponent’s waist)
  17. in-fighting: conflict within a group (from the term for boxing close up)
  18. keep (one’s) guard up: stay alert (from the idea of protecting one’s face with a gloved hand)
  19. kisser: lips
  20. knockout/KO: a decisive blow; a knockout is also a very attractive or impressive person
  21. lead with (one’s) chin: take a risk (from the inadvisable act of exposing one’s chin)
  22. lightweight: an insignificant person or entity (from the boxing and wrestling weight class)
  23. low blow: a hurtful or unfair action or comment (see “below the belt”)
  24. on the ropes: in trouble (an analogy to an exhausted boxer who is hanging onto a rope on the perimeter of the ring)
  25. one-two punch: a combination or sequence of two impactful things
  26. pull (one’s) punches: hold back from using full force or full resources (as when a boxer does not use his or her full strength)
  27. punch-drunk/punchy: dazed or fatigued (from the notion of a boxer disoriented from receiving multiple blows)
  28. put up your dukes: said by someone as an invitation to fight (see “duke it out”)
  29. ringside seat: a position close to an incident or event or chain of events
  30. roll with the punches: be flexible (from the idea of a boxer remaining in motion despite having received repeated blows)
  31. round: one of a series of activities or events (from the name of a period of time during a boxing match)
  32. saved by the bell: rescued from difficulty at the last moment (from the bell rung at the end of a round in boxing)
  33. slap-happy: see “punch-drunk/punchy”
  34. slugfest: a literally or figuratively combative event
  35. spar: to fight someone who isn’t really your enemy, as it implies a friendly or practice fight
  36. square off: prepare for conflict (from the tradition of boxers standing facing each other at the beginning of a match)
  37. straight from the shoulder: direct and forthright (an analogy to a blow delivered using one’s full strength)
  38. sucker punch: an unexpected blow
  39. take a dive: fail (from the slang phrase referring to a boxer falling after being struck)
  40. take it on the chin: stand up to criticism (from the idea of a boxer receiving a blow on the chin without falling)
  41. the gloves are off: said when someone begins to act mercilessly (in reference to boxing without gloves)
  42. put/throw/toss (one’s) hat into the ring: issue a challenge or indicate one’s interest in participating (from the custom of a challenger throwing his hat into a boxing ring when a boxer takes on random opponents)
  43. throw in the towel: give up (from the custom of a member of a boxer’s support team tossing a towel into the ring to indicate that the boxer concedes defeat)
  44. undercard: a subordinate activity or event in a series (from the term for the category of one or more boxing matches preceding the featured bout)
  45. (by PolyWogg): punching above one’s weight: almost always used as a compliment; i.e. that you are so good, you could fight above your weight class.