What Does Buck Up Mean?

Buck Up Meaning

Definition: Cheer up; deal with a problem.

People often use this expression to try to boost someone’s mood. Others use it to encourage someone to let go of their anger or other negative emotions.

Origin of Buck Up

This idiom originated in the 1800s. It comes from the word buck, which is another word for a male deer. Originally, buck up meant to dress smartly. Dressing smartly had the effect of bolstering a person’s confidence and making him or her feel better.

Over time, the meaning developed to its current definition of feeling better despite circumstances.

Examples of Buck Up

define buck upIn this example, one friend has just moved across the country to a new place. The two friends speak by phone about how he is adjusting to the change.

Neha: So, how do you like living so far away from where you grew up?

Tyrese: It’s not great so far. I haven’t met anyone who seems like they could become a friend.

Neha: Don’t worry. You’ve only been there a week. You’ll meet more people as time goes on.

Tyrese: Yeah, I guess so. But this city is really confusing, and the people are all terrible drivers here!

Neha: Buck up! You’ll get used to it.

Tyrese: But what if it just gets worse and worse?

Neha: Then you can always move back here. But at least give the new place a fair chance. Don’t give up yet!

Tyrese: Okay. I’ll try to stay at least six months.

bucking up definitionIn this example, two office workers are discussing why they must work on a holiday.

Barry: I can’t believe we have to work on a national holiday! Everyone else gets the day off.

Rachel: I know. It’s awful. But I guess we are so busy that we can’t afford the extra day off.

Barry: It’s just depressing.

Rachel: Buck up! We’ll get to take off another day next month to make up for working today.

Barry: Still. It’s the principle of it! It’s wrong to make us work.

More Examples

In this excerpt, the ghost of a former first lady allegedly told a more recent first lady to stay cheerful and confident.

  • But in her years as First Lady, Hillary — who once admitted to talk show host Rosie O’Donnell that the White House “can be a little creepy” — claimed to speak to the late Eleanor Roosevelt, who even advised Clinton to, “Buck up or at least have skin as thick as a rhinoceros.” –New York Daily News

In this excerpt, a woman tried to stay positive after she was the victim of a hate crime.

Just last month, a man spit in her face as she descended the stairs of the Garfield, N.J., Municipal Court, where she was testifying in a domestic violence dispute.  “I had to pause and decide do I fight or let it go?”

Sabra decided to buck up and carry on. “We have to stand up for our religious rights and encourage women to stand their ground,” she said. –USA Today


The phrase buck up means to not let negative circumstances bring your mood down.