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The meaning and origin of the expression: Alive and kicking

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Alive and kicking

Meaning

Definitely alive; lively and active.

Origin

Alive and kickingThe expression 'alive and kicking' was coined in the late 18th/early 19th century and is still widely used today. Its allusion to vigour and vivacity has caused it to be adopted as a slogan or title in various spheres - dance troupes, children's television programmes, kick-boxing, anti-abortion groups etc.

The earliest citation of 'alive and kicking' that I can find in print is from 1801, from the anonymous (and by anonymous, at that date, we can certainly assume female) author of the travelogue Farther excursions of the observant pedestrian, 1801. In this the narrator is interviewing a 'crab-boy', who observes:

"I left them [the crabs] all alive and kicking, your honour, when I came to church."

The recent youth slang term kickin', meaning 'excellent' or 'exciting', was coined in the USA in the 1980s. The earliest examples I can find date from 1989; for example, this piece from the Usenet Newsgroup 'Comp.lang.lisp', from April that year:

"It [the GNU Emacs editor] provides a kickin' interface."