What Does Add Up Mean?

Add Up Meaning

Definition: To make sense.

Origin of Add Up

This use of add up comes from the mid 1900s. It developed from the adding that is done in arithmetic.

If numbers add up, they come to the total that is expected; they make sense. If the numbers don’t add up, it means the total number doesn’t make sense in relation to the separate amounts. One of the individual numbers must be wrong. This usage dates back to the 1300s.

Examples of Add Up

meaning of to add upIn the first example, two friends are having a heated discussion about a problem at work.

Marcus: I don’t understand why Billy quit.

Patsy: He said he quit because he didn’t like the job. What more is there to understand?

Marcus: It just doesn’t add up! Billy came into work every day excited to be here. He loved his job more than anyone else in the department.

Patsy: Maybe he was just a positive person.

Marcus: No way. Something suspicious is going on, and I’m going to find out what it is.

define add upIn the second example, a sister is talking to her brother about some strange behavior from family and friends.

Angela: I’m frustrated.

Samson: What’s wrong?

Angela: Well, as you know, my birthday is less than a week away. I had a small gathering planned with a few close friends, but they all decided to cancel.

Samson: That’s too bad. I wish I could do something with you, but I have an important work commitment.

Angela: That’s another strange thing. None of my friends or family are available! It just doesn’t add up. It can’t be a coincidence that everyone is busy. There must be something else going on. Do you think everyone hates me?

Samson: No. Okay, look. I wasn’t supposed to tell you this, but we’re planning a surprise party for you.

Angela: What? That’s so sweet! It all adds up now. That makes total sense!

More Examples

This excerpt is from an opinion column. The writer believes that a politician resigned for an unbelievable reason.

  • The point here is that for a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s “lie” to Vice President Mike Pence would get him fired. It doesn’t add up. –Denver Post

This excerpt is from another opinion column. The author doesn’t think a controversy about bribes is true because he doesn’t think it would make sense.

  • Daily News coverage has breathlessly tried to connect the city’s decision to advance the BQX to political donations from developers along the route in a way that, for me, doesn’t add up. –New York Daily News


The phrase add up means to seem reasonable, logical, and make sense.