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The meaning and origin of the expression: Ticked off

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Ticked off

Meaning

Chastised; 'told off', or in a separate US meaning, 'annoyed'. There's also the literal meaning of 'ticked off' - when ticks are placed against a list of items as they are noted.

Origin

The 'chastised' meaning is of UK military origin and dates from the early 20th century and is now rather outmoded. It is usually applied to a child or subordinate. the earliest known citation of it in print is in a 1915 letter which was later published in Wilfred Owen's Collected Letters:

"He has been 'ticked-off' four or five times for it; but is not yet shot at dawn."

The more recent American meaning of 'annoyed' is unrelated and dates from around the 1960s; for example, this piece from The Charleston Gazette, April 1969:

"The letter that really ticked me off was the one from the wife who said she felt like a prostitute."