What Does Take Up Arms Mean?

Take Up Arms Meaning

Definition: To go to war or to become involved in a physical conflict with weapons.

Origin of Take Up Arms

The word arms means weapons. Originally, it meant any kind of tool or weapon. However, nowadays it usually has the connotation of firearms. It dates back to the 1300s and comes from the Latin arma, which can still be seen in other words like armory and armaments.

The idiom take up arms first appeared in the 1400s. To understand the meaning behind it, imagine that a war has just been announced. All the fighters must pick up a gun so that they are ready to fight. In other words, they take their weapon and hold it up.

This expression doesn’t always refer to huge wars between countries. People can also use it for rebel or terrorist groups who arm themselves to fight against their own government.

Examples of Take Up Arms

taking up arm meaningIn this example, two friends are discussing an acquaintance.

Cassie: That guy we met at the party last night was pretty strange.

Rebecca: Why? What did he do?

Cassie: He kept talking about the second amendment and how he could do whatever he wanted with his own property, and he would fight for that right even if it meant taking up arms against the government.

Rebecca: Wow. Strong words.

Cassie: I know. He really didn’t like his Homeowners’ Association.

take up arms against the government meaningIn the dialogue below, two men are discussing the history class that one of them is taking.

Antonio: I’m reading all about early American history.

Igor: Cool. Do you like it? I always found history boring.

Antonio: I love it! I’m learning about why the colonists decided to take up arms against Britain. It’s fascinating.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a dispute over water.

  • The ruling noted that in January 2016, the ranchers decided to take up arms to protest federal policy and regulations that prioritize water habitat for migrating birds by limiting the number of cattle that historically grazed and used water in the area. –Houston Chronicle

This excerpt is from an article about interpreting the constitution.

  • The notion that the Second Amendment was understood to protect a right to take up arms against the government is absurd. Indeed, the Constitution itself defines such an act as treason. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase take up arms means to prepare to fight with weapons.