crack the whip

verb (used without object)

to demand obedience, hard work, or efficiency from others in a harsh or stern manner.


Also called snap the whip. a game in which players in a line, each holding the next, run, roller-skate, or ice-skate for a distance until the leader veers suddenly in a new direction, causing the rest of the line to swing around rapidly and the players at the end of the line to lose their balance or to let go of the other players.

Nearby words

  1. crack a smile,
  2. crack down,
  3. crack of dawn,
  4. crack of doom,
  5. crack on,
  6. crack up,
  7. crack willow,
  8. crack-up,
  9. cracka,
  10. crackajack Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for crack the whip

  • The farmers about here interpret the notes to say, Crack-the-whip!

    Wild Life Near Home|Dallas Lore Sharp

Idioms and Phrases with crack the whip

crack the whip

Behave in a domineering and demanding way toward one's subordinates. For example, He's been cracking the whip ever since he got his promotion. This expression, first recorded in 1647, alludes to drivers of horse-drawn wagons who snapped their whips hard, producing a loud cracking noise. Its figurative use dates from the late 1800s.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.