What Does Suck Up To Someone Mean?

Suck Up To Someone Meaning

Definition: To flatter someone in order to benefit or gain favor from that person.

Origin of Suck Up to Someone

Variations of this expression appear to have been around since in the mid-1800s. However, the exact reasoning behind its meaning is unclear.

Some people speculate that this idiom uses suck in reference to a sexual act. However, the word suck did not have this meaning until the 1900s. Therefore, it is unlikely that this is the case.

Others speculate that it comes from baby animals suckling their mother. A piglet might try to literally suck up: to move from a low teat to a higher one, to get a better position. However, there is no evidence that this is the meaning behind the idiom either.

A related phrase is to kiss up to someone.

Examples of Suck Up to Someone

meaning of suck up toThis example shows two women discussing the behavior of a third co-worker.

Bella: Did you see what Cel is doing?

Hannah: No! What is it?

Bella: She keeps sucking up to the boss. Every time that he has an idea, she makes some comment about how smart he is. Every time he tells someone to do something, she adds how important she thinks it is that the employee follows those orders.

Hannah: Why do you think she wants to suck up to him?

Bella: I guess she thinks her job will be safe if she flatters the boss enough. We all heard that he is trying to fire some people to save money.

sucking up to the bossThe following example shows two college students talking about their professor.

Hanh: I heard that our professor only gave one student a good grade for our last assignment. He gave it to the student who is always sucking up to him.

Zhongyi: That’s not fair. We shouldn’t have to be obsequious to the professor in order to get a good grade. Our grades should depend on our work and nothing else.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a journalist and her ethics.

  • “I really had to choose — am I going to be an honest journalist … or am I going to suck up to Trump?” she told the AP. “I chose the former, and it’s worked out fine for me.” –Denver Post

The second example is from an article discussing characters in a drama.

  • Vince leads a young man’s seemingly idyllic existence, but even he has to suck up to people for whom he has no respect, such as the producer’s ne’er-do-well son, played by former child actor Haley Joel Osment. –Houston Chronicle


The expression to suck up to someone means to be obsequious or to say positive things about someone in order to curry favor with that person.