Step up to the plate


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Step up to the plate'?

‘Step up to the plate’ is an expression used in baseball, meaning ‘enter the batter’s box to take a turn to bat’.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Step up to the plate'?

Clearly, this is an American expression deriving from baseball. Americans may forgive a little further simple explanation for those of us outside the USA, understanding as much about baseball as you do about cricket, and wouldn’t know Yogi Berra from Yogi Bear.

Firstly, what’s the plate? Well, it’s a real plate marking the batter’s position – as in the picture. ‘Step up’ is what it sounds like – batter’s step up to the plate when it’s their turn to bat.

The expression began to be used towards the end of the 19th century. The first example that I know of comes from the Illinois newspaper The Chicago Tribune, May 1874, in a game between the White Stockings and Hartford:

The visitors were put out as fast as they stepped up to the plate.

There’s little else to say about this expression.

Trend of step up to the plate in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.