think on one's feet
- (idiomatic) When one is in the middle of a process, activity, or conversation, to adjust rapidly, effectively, and intelligently to new developments or changing circumstances.
1901, Henry B. Fuller, chapter 24, in Under the Skylights:
- "There will be wine," said Medora. "Drink it. There may be toasts. Be ready to respond."
- Abner could think on his feet—speech would not fail.
- c. 1919, Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys, Volume 9: Great Reformers, "Richard Cobden":
- The political canvass had given freedom to his wings; he had learned to think on his feet, to meet interruption, to parry in debate.
- 2007 Sept. 16, Karen Crouse, "Covering New Ground, Jets’ Clemens Relies on Deep Roots ," New York Times (retrieved 7 Nov 2011):
- Clemens had to think on his feet, adjust on the run, make split-second decisions and, if he messed up, contend with the consequences.