shut up

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Definition of shut up

verb (adverb)
(tr) to prevent all access to
(tr) to confine or imprison
informal to cease to talk or make a noise or cause to cease to talk or make a noise: often used in commands
(intr) (of horses in a race) to cease through exhaustion from maintaining a racing pace


How Shut Up Became So Mean

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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


What is a basic definition of shut up?

Shut up is a verb phrase that means to stop talking, to imprison, or to close something tightly.

Informally, to shut up is to not say anything else. In this sense, shut up is commonly considered a rude way to request someone else stop talking. Depending on how it is used, shut up can be seen as an incredibly impolite, condescending, or hostile phrase. At the same time, shut up can be used jokingly or playfully among friends.

  • Used in a sentence: My mom gave me an angry look when I said the dinner was awful and I knew I should shut up. 

In this same sense, shut up can also mean to cause another person to stop talking or making noise.

  • Used in a sentence: Lauren’s beautiful singing shut her critics up quickly. 

Shut up is also used to mean to imprison or confine something or someone. When something is shut up, it is locked up so securely that there is little chance of escape or discovery.

  • Real-life examples: You can shut a bird up in a cage. Prisoners are shut up in prison cells. Old clothes can be shut up in a trunk, out of the way.
  • Used in a sentence: The wicked queen shut up the princess in a dungeon so the handsome knight would never find her. 

Shut up can also mean to close something tightly and securely.

  • Used in a sentence: We shut up all of the windows before the hailstorm started.

Where does shut up come from?

The first records of shut up come from the 1400s. At first, the sense of “to imprison” was the most common. The senses of “to stop speaking” and “to cause to stop speaking” emerged in the early 1800s. Today, these latter senses are by far the most common.

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What are some synonyms for shut up?

What are some words that share a root or word element with shut up?

What are some words that often get used in discussing shut up?

How is shut up used in real life?

Shut up is a common phrase that most often means to stop talking or to cause someone else to stop talking. Shut up is frequently used as a rude command to demand that someone stop speaking.

Try using shut up!

True or False?

Telling someone to shut up is often considered rude.

How to use shut up in a sentence

Other Idioms and Phrases with shut up

shut up


Imprison, confine, enclose, as in The dog was shut up in the cellar for the night, or She shut up her memories and never talked about the past. [c. 1400]


Close completely, as in The windows were shut up tightly so no rain came in. [Early 1500s] This usage also occurs in shut up shop, meaning “close the premises of a business,” as in It's late, let's shut up shop now. [Late 1500s] Also see close up, def. 3.


Cause someone to stop speaking, silence someone, as in It's time someone shut him up. [Early 1800s]


Stop speaking, as in I've told you what I think and now I'll shut up. This usage also occurs as a rather rude imperative, as in Shut up! You've said enough. [First half of 1800s]

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