What Does The Game is Afoot Mean?

The Game is Afoot Meaning

Definition: Something has started.

People usually say this when something exciting is happening.

Origin of The Game is Afoot

This expression comes from the English playwright William Shakespeare. In his play King Henry IV, circa 1597, he first used the phrase.

  • Before the game is afoot, thou still let’st slip.

This expression became more popular in the 1900s after the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used it in a popular story about the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

  • Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!

The literal meaning is about hunting. The game means the animal or animals that people are hunting and afoot means running or on the move.

Examples of The Game is Afoot

the game is afoot sherlock holmesThis example shows two women discussing something exciting that is happening in their workplace.

Bella: Hannah, I need your help.

Hannah: For what?

Bella: Robert pulled a prank on me, so I am about to pull a prank on him. I need you to help me with it.

Hannah: Okay…

Bella: So I hid a small speaker in the office you two share, and I’m going to make it play weird, creepy noises.

Hannah: Like what?

Bella: Like children laughing. And when he asks you if you hear it, I want you to say that you don’t hear anything.

Hannah: I guess I could do that.

Bella: Okay, I’m pushing play now. Go back to your office and pretend to hear nothing. The game is afoot!

sherlock the game is afootThe following example shows two college students whispering to each other in class, and their professor, who is giving a lecture.

Professor: Today’s lecture is not really a lecture at all. Rather it is an activity.

Hanh: This should be interesting.

Professor: I want to give you a sense for the real life stress of being a doctor during a catastrophic event, so I’ve hired actors to pretend to be patients. Your job is to try to decide who to treat, and in what order, through working together. I will be observing all of you and giving you a grade based on your performance. The person with the highest score won’t need to write the final essay for the class, so this is also a competition.

Zhongyi: Oh my goodness! I really want to win, but this sounds difficult.

Professor: And, like in real life, you often aren’t prepared. So this activity starts now! Actors, you may enter! Students, start your work. The game is afoot!

More Examples

The excerpt uses the expression to mean that a new season of a TV show has started.

  • The game is afoot yet again in the fourth season of “Sherlock,” but so is complete catastrophe. –Chicago Sun Times

The second example uses the expression to say that the election process has begun.

  • The game is afoot. Trump needs to win about 55 percent of the 1,000-plus delegates still up for grabs to reach 1,237, a majority. Trump hasn’t won 50 percent of the vote in any contest to date. True, Trump got 100 percent of Florida delegates for winning only 45 percent of the vote. But of the remaining 20 primaries, only six are winner-take-all, and could be about evenly split between Trump and Cruz. –OC Register


The phrase the game is afoot means it’s happening and people usually say this only when something thrilling is occurring.