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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.
Image: bizarrocomics.com

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.