verb (used with object)


    on the bench,
    1. serving as a judge in a court of law; presiding.
    2. Sports.(of a player) not participating in play, either for part or all of a game.

Origin of bench

before 1000; Middle English, Old English benc; cognate with Old Frisian benk, Old Saxon, Dutch, Old High German bank, Old Norse bekkr < Germanic *bank-i-; see bank1
Related formsbench·less, adjectiveun·bench, verb (used with object) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for on the bench



a long seat for more than one person, usually lacking a back or arms
a plain stout worktable
the bench (sometimes capital)
  1. a judge or magistrate sitting in court in a judicial capacity
  2. judges or magistrates collectively
sport the seat on which reserve players and officials sit during a game
geology a flat narrow platform of land, esp one marking a former shoreline
a ledge in a mine or quarry from which work is carried out
(in a gymnasium) a low table, which may be inclined, used for various exercises
a platform on which dogs or other domestic animals are exhibited at shows
NZ a hollow on a hillside formed by sheep

verb (tr)

to provide with benches
to exhibit (a dog, etc) at a show
NZ to form (a track) up a hill by excavating a flattened area
US and Canadian sport to take or keep (a player) out of a game, often for disciplinary reasons

Word Origin for bench

Old English benc; related to Old Norse bekkr, Old High German bank, Danish, Swedish bänk; see bank ³
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for on the bench



Old English benc "long seat," from Proto-Germanic *bankiz "bank of earth," perhaps here "man-made earthwork," later "bench, table" (cf. Old Frisian bank "bench," Old Norse bekkr, Danish bænk, Middle Dutch banc, Old High German banch), from PIE root *bheg- "to break." Used for "office of a judge" since late 13c. Sporting sense "reserve of players" (in baseball, North American football, etc.) is by 1909, from literal sense of place where players sit when not in action (by 1889).



"to take out of the game," 1902, from bench (n.) in the sporting sense. Related: Benched; benching. Old English also had a verb form, but it meant "to make benches."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with on the bench

on the bench


Presiding as judge in a law court, as in Lawyers are very careful when Judge Brown is on the bench. This usage alludes to the seat occupied by a judge. [Late 1200s]


Waiting for a chance to participate; also, removed from participation. For example, Mary complained that all her colleagues were going to the sales conference while she was left on the bench. This usage comes from baseball and other sports, where players not deemed ready or competent to play sit on a bench watching the game. [Early 1900s]


see on the bench; warm the bench.

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