belly up to the bar

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(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)

The origin of the phrase "belly up to the bar" can be traced back as early as the 1920s, when it was present in stories like The Wails and Tales of a Tropical Tramp by Cecil Villiers.


belly up to the bar (third-person singular simple present bellies up to the bar, present participle bellying up to the bar, simple past and past participle bellied up to the bar)

  1. (chiefly US, idiomatic) To commit oneself to a challenge or task; to accept a responsibility; to acknowledge a fact.
    • 1991 June 2, “If Delta's Going To Make A Move, 'It's Now Or Never'”, in Businessweek, retrieved 5 April 2015:
      Allen declines to discuss acquisition plans. . . . Nonetheless, W. Whitley Hawkins, whom Allen recently promoted to president from executive vice-president for marketing, asks the question out loud: "Are we going to belly up to the bar? All Pan Am assets for sale have some appeal to us."
    • 2005 March 4, Rebecca Leung, “CIA Flying Suspects to Torture?”, in CBS News, retrieved 25 March 2015:
      "[T]he congressional committees aren't gonna belly up to the bar and say, 'We authorized this,'" says Scheuer.
    • 2008 April 25, Mark Leibovich, “Black Leader in the House Sharply Criticizes Bill Clinton”, in New York Times, retrieved 5 April 2015:
      “When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar,” Mr. Clyburn said.
    • 2014 December 14, Deirdre Shesgreen, “Boehner, McConnell face big to-do list in next Congress”, in USA Today, retrieved 25 March 2015:
      "They're going to have to belly up to the bar and take up these difficult issues," said G. William Hoagland, who served as director of budget and appropriations.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Used especially in business-related or political contexts.


See also[edit]