What Does Up in Arms Mean?

Up in Arms Meaning

Definition: Infuriated; very angry.

This phrase describes anyone who is raging against something with which he or she disagrees.

Origin of Up in Arms

This idiom first appeared during the 1500s. It most likely came from the definition of arms: weapons and ammunition. Imagine that a person is angry enough to have grabbed a weapon.

Up in arms is not usually used literally, but its meaning is that the person is angry to the point of feeling violent.

Examples of Up in Arms

meaning of up in armsIn this conversation, a mother and her daughter are discussing a wedding problem. Some family members are angry that they weren’t invited to the wedding.

Daughter: Hi, Mom! What’s up?

Mother: I can’t believe you haven’t heard already.

Daughter: What? What happened?

Mother: Your cousins are all up in arms because you didn’t invite any of them to your wedding!

Daughter: Oh, that. I thought that might happen.

Mother: Why on Earth wouldn’t you invite your close family members? My brothers and sisters have been calling me all day complaining about it!

Daughter: I didn’t think they’d want to come. I’ll tell them we lost their invitations, but that they are invited.

Mother: You better!

all up in armsIn this example, two coworkers talk about how upset all the employees are. They all hate their boss’s new idea.

Dave: Everyone seems really angry today. What is going on?

Ben: It’s Charles. Everyone is all up in arms about a new policy he’s trying to enact.

Dave: What’s he trying to do?

Ben: He’s trying to make us all keep track of all our hours on a timesheet.

Dave: What? But we’re all full-time workers. Why does it matter exactly when we come and go as long as we get all of our work done?

Ben: I know. That’s why everyone is upset.

More Examples

In this quote, a company says that an animal rights group exists by keeping its members angry.

  • “Kudos to PETA for all the good work it does, but PETA is a non‐profit organization that sustains itself by getting its members up in arms about alleged abuse,” the company said in its letter. –LA Times

In this example, Twitter users were upset about a fashion show that wasn’t on schedule.

  • They were told that the show would begin at 3:00 p.m. and last an hour. All in all, it started late and didn’t end until close to 5 p.m. While Twitter was up in arms about it, there were several smaller, independent designers who were the real casualties — several editors missed their shows to go to Kanye. –New York Times


The phrase up in arms is another way to describe people who are infuriated. It often describes those who are verbally or physically showing their anger, rather than those dealing with their anger in a quiet, personal way.