up to eleven

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

First attested (in the form pull it back to eleven, referring to the eleven-position throttle of the powerful Chesapeake and Ohio class M-1 locomotive) in 1947, but popularized by a scene in the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap (1984), in which a musician shows off a guitar amplifier with setting knobs that go from zero to eleven, rather than the standard zero to ten.

Pronunciation[edit]

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Adverb[edit]

up to eleven

  1. (idiomatic) Beyond the maximum possible threshold
    • 1997, Matthew Branton, The Love Parade, Hamish Hamilton (1997), →ISBN, page 60:
      She and River looked at me hard; but I lowered my eyes and leaned forward, with the nonchalance turned up to eleven, extinguished my cigarette, made eye-contact and nodded curtly.
    • 2008, Tim Pratt, Poison Sleep, Bantam Spectra (2008), →ISBN, page 267:
      Flying is like motion sickness turned up to eleven, []
    • 2009, Robin Jones Gunn, Sisterchicks Go Brit!, Random House Books (2008), →ISBN, 147.
      “(...) ‘Oh, Lady Ebb, I'm up to eleven today after that last biscuit.’ (...)”
    • 2013, Mark Mason, Move Along, Please, Random House Books (2013), →ISBN, unnumbered page:
      As we reach the city today, rush hour has been turned up to eleven, so there's plenty of waiting in traffic.
    • 2014, Joseph O'Connor, The Thrill of it All, Random House Books (2014), →ISBN, unmarked page.
      It's not that London was unexciting. But I didn't understand it, felt lost. Its amp went up to eleven.
    • 2015, Charles Baxter, There's Something I Want You to Do: Stories, Random House Books (2015), →ISBN, unnumbered page.
      “But what our textbook said? Was that they had, you know, torture parties there. Once. Where torturers get drunk and turn the dial up to eleven.”

Verb[edit]

up to eleven (third-person singular simple present ups to eleven, present participle upping to eleven, simple past and past participle upped to eleven)

  1. (slang, transitive) to increase to an extreme degree, to make (something) go over the top

See also[edit]