What Does Carry On Mean?

To Carry On Meaning

Definition: To stay the course; to continue doing what you are already doing.

To carry on with something is to continue doing that thing. Often, to carry on is used with another verb, such as in phrases like to carry on working and to carry on talking.

The phrase can also be used on its own to show a continuation of a task, such as when someone says, “The singers carried on after the show.” In this case, the phrase indicates that the singers continued to sing even after their performance was over.

Carrying on with something can either be good or bad based on what action is being carried on.

Carry on can also refer to a piece of luggage that you bring on the airplane with you instead of checking it. These are usually referred to as carry-on items.

Origin of To Carry On

what is a carry onThis phrase comes from Great Britain, where it has been used for hundreds of years. It seems to have come from the British Navy, where it was a direction to keep going on the same course and not change.

The phrase became extremely popular during World War II in the Keep Calm and Carry On slogans and posters. Though these posters started in Great Britain, they are still created and used in many countries to inspire dedication and motivation to this day.

Over time, Americans have come to use the term simply to mean “misbehavior.” Because it could be in phrases like to carry on talking after told not to or to carry on drinking past the point of health, the phrase could refer to causing trouble. Therefore, Americans often say, they carried on to mean acting boisterously.

Examples of To Carry On

carry on phraseA teacher may say,

  • I have to step outside to talk to someone for a moment. Please carry on with your assignment.

In this example, the teacher is telling the class to keep doing what they are already doing.

Other uses include carry on walking until you reach the dead end and carry on driving until you need to stop for a bathroom break.

More Examples

  • Miller said her dad needed convincing to carry on with his and his wife’s vacation plans. –New York Post
  • She told Oprah shortly after her mother’s death in 2012 that she wanted to carry onher mother’s legacy by singing, acting and dancing. –Chicago Sun


To carry on is to keep going, to keep doing what you are already doing.