What Does Hitch a Ride Mean?

Hitch a Ride Meaning

Definition: To get a ride from someone for free.

Usually the person giving the ride was already going to wherever the hitching person wanted to go.

Origin of Hitch a Ride

Synonymous expressions include thumb a ride, bum a ride, and hitchhiking. All four expressions originated in the first half of the 1900s and quickly started gaining popularity in the 1930s. Nowadays, thumb a ride is much less common, whereas the other ones are roughly equally used.

For many places in the world, especially in America and most of Europe, a person who wants to hitchhike will extend their arm toward the road with a fist, with the thumb pointing upwards. This indicates to drivers on the road that the person would like a ride in the direction the person is going.

The term likely comes from the fact that the passenger is acting as a sort of trailer that is being pulled along in the direction of the driver. In this sense, asking someone if you can hitch a ride, is akin to asking the person if you can hitch yourself to the car, as a trailer hitch connects a trailer.

Hitchhiking became popular during the First World War as a way for soldiers to get around when back at home. Citizens were often happy to help soldiers and felt a sense of duty to do so. By the time the Great Depression hit, people hitchhiked more out of need.

Examples of Hitch a Ride

hitch a ride definitionIn the example below, two friends are hanging out when one needs to leave to run an errand.

Ted: Well, it was nice spending time with you. I might leave now because I have to run to the store and do my shopping.

Rufio: Really? Do you mind if I hitch a ride with you? I need to go grocery shopping as well, and it would be a lot easier to transport the food in your car. I hate walking back with so many bags.

Ted: Sure.

define hitch a rideThis dialogue shows two friends whose car broke down.

Zayna: I can’t believe our car stopped working in the middle of nowhere. I don’t even have a signal, so I can’t call for help on my phone.

Ben: I know! I guess we’re stuck here unless we can hitch a ride back into town.

More Examples

The excerpt is about a professional football player who got a ride from fans.

  • When Packers cornerback Davon House missed his flight back to Green Bay from Minnesota, he turned to fans to help him get back in time for OTAs. House posted on Twitter asking if he could hitch a ride back to Wisconsin with any Packers fan that was in Minnesota. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from an article about inconsistencies between police reports and witness statements regarding bicycle fatalities.

  • That same month, James Gregg, 33, was killed while riding his bike on Brooklyn’s Sixth Ave. when he was run over by a semitruck driver. Officers at the scene said that Gregg was intentionally holding the truck’s side as if to hitch a ride when he fell under the rear wheel of the trailer. –New York Daily News


The phrase to hitch a ride means to join someone for a ride in the direction that person is going. This oftentimes is a stranger, but sometimes people can use it when asking a friend for a ride as well, if the friend is going the same direction already.