Be On Your Mettle

Meaning of Idiom ‘Be On Your Mettle’

To be on your mettle means to be determined or forced to prove your ability, especially in a demanding or difficult situation. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Ayto, John.  Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

See also prove your mettle.

Examples Of Use

“If you are going to survive this crisis, you must be on your mettle.”

“This course is demanding and many will not complete it. You all have to be on your mettle.”

Origin

Mettle is a variant spelling of metal that is no longer used except in this idiom and other figurative uses. Mettle here refers to a person’s ability to cope with a difficult situation but it can also refer to temperament, resilience, courage, etc. as in the phrase “this will test your mettle.” Both metal and mettle began to be used in this figurative way in the early 1600s but the two words began to diverge in meaning by the 1700s, with mettle being reserved for figurative use. This practice was not applied universally until the 19th century. 3Ayto, John.  Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
2, 3. Ayto, John.  Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.