What Does Catch as Catch Can Mean?

Catch as Catch Can Meaning

Definition: The best one can do with whatever is available; by whatever means or in any way possible.

Catch as catch can is used as an adjective used to describe using whatever methods or materials are available. In some sense, then, this phrase describes something that is done in an unplanned way. Something that is catch as catch can will not be organized or strategized. Instead, it will be done so that people will take advantage of whatever opportunity come their way.

This idiom is similar to saying, “go with the flow.” However, to do something catch as catch can shows a little more willingness to try and improve or advance a situation.

Origin of Catch as Catch Can

What is a catch canThis phrase comes from an old style of wrestling that allowed participants to use many moves not usually permitted in wrestling. For example, catch as catch can wrestlers may hold each other below the waist or even trip each other.

Therefore, catch as catch can wrestlers take advantage of any opportunity afforded to them, including opportunities not usually use by other wrestlers. Likewise, when something is described as catch as catch can, it is done in a way that allows any advantage possible to be used.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms says that this idiom has been used, in various forms, since the 1300s.

Examples of Catch as Catch Can

Catch as catch can originPeople living in a trailer traveling around a foreign country taking on odd jobs to finance their travels would be described as living a catch as catch can life.

Something not fully planned may also be described as catch as catch can. For example, moving to a new location and looking for a job once you get there would be a catch as catch can decision.

Things that are catch as catch can may not necessarily be overly serious matters. For example, someone may say,

We’ll just eat whatever we have left over in the fridge for dinner. It’ll be a catch as catch can meal.

More Examples

  • “Book-selling is such a catch-as-catch-can business,” Reid says. “We get strength from each other.” – LA Times


Catch as catch can describes something unplanned and opportunistic.