Step Up to the Plate

Meaning of Idiom ‘Step Up to the Plate’

To step up to the plate means to take responsibility for something; to take initiative or take action in response to a crisis or problem; to take action or do something in response to an opportunity; to accept a challenge; to rise to the occasion.

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This idiom is usually used in reference to doing something difficult.

Sometimes a shortened version ‘step up’ is used, but step up can also have different meanings such as to move from a lower to a higher position or raise the level of something such as sound or electricity.

Examples Of Use

“This administration has completely failed to step up to the plate, resulting in thousands of unneeded deaths.”

“You’ve been engaged for ten years. When are you going to step up to the plate and marry her?”

“If you want to run this business someday then you need to step up. Show up on time and take on more responsibility.”

“I need you to step up to the plate. I can’t do this alone.”


‘Step up to the plate’ is mainly a North American idiom. It’s based on the more literal meaning of the phrase in American baseball, meaning to approach home base and prepare to hit the ball. The idiom has become common enough that it might even be used in regards to players in sports without plates.

The idiom appears in print in metaphorical terms as early as 1916:

Develop this willpower, and make it so strong that the next time we step up to the plate of life, and grab the bat of determination we will knock the ball of misery so far that failure will never be able to find it. — Our Paper, 1916

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