Take a beating

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘Take a beating’?

To be beaten badly in some form of competition. 

What is the origin of the phrase ‘Take a beating’?

The phrase ‘take a beating’ is thought to date back to the 1800s. It is derived from its literal sense, meaning enduring physical blows. During this time it was more common to see beatings because it was prior to physical beatings and corporal punishment being made illegal. 

However, over time the meaning of the phrase expanded to describe taking a setback or loss in a competitive sense, such as in a sports game, or even in a lively debate.

A very similar phrase, ‘Take a lashing’ also carries the same meaning today, and is derived in much the same way.

What are some notable uses of the phrase ‘Take a beating’?

While the phrase ‘Take a beating’ is most often used in sports commentary, it has also been applied in the world of stock markets during the 2008 financial crisis, and how the Great British pound took a beating following Brexit and its aftermath.

The past tense version of the phrase has often been used in books, including the classic ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee in 1960. It’s also been used in the TV show ‘Breaking Bad’ and the film ‘Rocky’

Margaret Thatcher, while Prime Minister of the UK in the 1980s is quoted as saying “Our industries have taken a beating, but with the right policies, we will see them thrive again.”

Similarly, the former US President Barack Obama is quoted as saying “Middle-class families have taken a beating these past few years, but we are working to turn things around.” 

Trend of take a beating in printed material over time

Cari Mayhew - Author at Phrase Finder

Cari Mayhew

Lifelong learner, phrase fanatic, and lover of literature across multiple genres. Cari Mayhew has a passion for expression, and a keen curiosity for how phrases begin and how their use transforms over time. She is often found looking for the ideal idiom to convey her thoughts and musings.