Have you ever been lazy and had someone speak to you in a harsh manner to make you do something? If yes, don’t worry. A lot of us have experienced something like that. That person could have been your parent, teacher, or boss. When they speak in a strict or harsh way to get you to do something, they are ‘cracking the whip.’ So, what does that exactly mean, and where did this expression come from? Continue reading to find out the meaning and origin of crack the whip!
Crack the Whip
So, let’s say you were being lazy and not doing the task you are supposed to complete at work. You could have done online shopping during work time or taken a lunch break for too long. Then your boss tells you to get back to work in a harsh way. Later, your boss goes to one of his colleagues and says, “I had to crack the whip!” That means he had to be strict in order to make you get things done.
What is a whip?
A whip is a flexible tool that has a handle and lash. It is normally used to strike an animal. You could use it to give pain, but usually, people use it only to make a sound that can encourage a specific movement or give a directional guide.
Crack the Whip Meaning
Crack the whip means to speak or act in a very strict or harsh way that tries to force others to do something. It is often used in a negative way towards lazy people. It can also be used in a light-hearted manner between close friends.
Let’s say a father has been asking his son to clean his room since a day ago. The kid is too lazy to clean the room right away and instead plays video games. The father will crack the whip and say something strict like, “That’s it. If you don’t clean your room right away, you will be grounded for a week.” The kid will be forced to clean it because he has a plan to meet his friends tonight.
Origin of Crack the Whip
The origin of crack the whip is related to drivers of horse-drawn carriages from the 1600s and onwards. They cracked their whips to get the horses to go faster. The first use of this idiom was seen in the 1800s.
Don’t worry! Most of the carriage drivers didn’t actually hit the horses with the whip. They cacked the whip above the horses’ heads to scare them with the whipping sound. This made the horses run faster.
Crack the Whip Examples
Here are some examples of crack the whip in a sentence.
- The teacher decided to crack the whip and make students study harder before finals.
- Our boss had to crack the whip because so many people on our team weren’t keeping the project deadline.
- I don’t understand why our boss won’t’ crack the whip. No one is getting anything done!
Other English Idioms
If you want to build your vocabulary and improve ESL conversation skills, check out more English idioms.
- English Idiom: Blow Off Some Steam
- English Idiom: A dime a dozen
- English Idiom: Turn a blind eye
- English Idiom: The best of both worlds
FAQs About Crack the Whip
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the idiom ‘crack the whip.’
What does it mean to crack the whip?
To crack the whip means to speak or act in a very strict or harsh manner to make others do something. Usually, people in authority force others to do something (better).
Where does the expression crack the whip come from?
The expression ‘crack the whip’ comes from horse-drawn carriage drivers who cracked the whip to make horses run faster or move in a certain direction.
What can I say instead of crack the whip?
Synonyms and phrases you can use instead of crack the whip:
Crack the Whip Meaning: Join the Conversation
What are your thoughts on the idiom ‘crack the whip?’ Try making your own sentence or dialogue using crack the whip. This is the best way to review something new that you’ve learned. If there is another idiom or expression you want to learn, let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!