What Does Man Alive Mean?

Man Alive Meaning

Definition: Oh my goodness!

People often use this interjection to express surprise. It can be positive or negative surprise.

Origin of Man Alive!

The origin of this expression is unclear. However, there are many theories surrounding how it came to be.

Some sources note that Man! could be a shorter variation of the idiom. Other similar expressions include oh man, boy, and oh boy. In the past, there were also other expressions that used alive as part of an interjection, such as sakes alive.

Others draw a connection between this interjection and the literal usage sailors cried after a shipwreck, when one of their shipmates was found alive.

Still others speculate that it comes from a Welsh expression with the same meaning.

This expression is no longer common as an interjection. Rather, people use man alive with superlatives such as the fastest man alive or the smartest man alive.

Sources do not know exactly when this expression originated. Claims range from the 1200s to the 1800s.

Examples of Man Alive!

man alive expression This example shows two college students using the idiom after a phone call one of them had with his parents.

Frank: I have some bad news.

Karl: What is it?

Frank: My parents just told me I have to transfer schools. I’m sorry, but I guess we won’t see each other much anymore.

Karl: Man alive! Why on earth would you have to transfer?

man alive saying In this example, two friends are shopping for food at the grocery store.

Lily: Look! This expensive fruit is on sale for 75 percent off!

Grace: Man alive! What a great deal! We definitely have to buy that.

More Examples

The quote below is about football strategy.

  • “We try to use all eligible runners and receivers, but man alive, let’s get the ball to our best players quite a little bit,” he said. –Baltimore Sun

This excerpt is about heavy flooding.

  • “Hunting Bayou is not a big bayou, but man alive, it floods,” Maner said. “The water from Hunting Bayou goes from up north in Houston, so the closer to the ship channel you get, it starts accumulating water as it comes from all the different water sheds.” –Paris Post Intelligencer


The phrase man alive! is another way to say oh my goodness and can be used to express shock about something either good or bad.