Think on your feet

Posted by Bob on January 14, 2005

In Reply to: Think on your feet posted by Noga on January 14, 2005

: Can anyone explain the meaning of this phrase to me?
: ("you have to think on your feet"). I can't seem to find a simple explanation (neither in Oxford nor in Webster)
: thanx

It means to solve problems spontaneously, immediately, without time for contemplation. The imagery is that of a person in action, versus one sitting and planning. Imagine a tennis player having to make split-second decisions, or a lawyer questioning a witness. (Come to think of it, the witness has to "think on his feet" even though he's sitting down. (!) You may have made careful preparation and planned for most contingencies, but when the action starts, there will always be surprises you must react to on the spur of the moment.