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What Does "Alive and Kicking" Mean?

Jim B.
Jim B.

"Alive and kicking" is an English idiom that refers to someone or something that is not only still alive but is still active. The implication with this phrase is that the subject of it may have been considered either literally or figuratively dead, but instead still has plenty of life within. This phrase is malleable enough to be stretched from its literal meaning to include descriptions of sports teams whose chances, at one point seemingly dead, are now alive and well. By most accounts, "alive and kicking" was first used and gained its popularity in America in the 19th century.

It is possible to use a phrase in the English language that has a meaning that might not seem logical if just the literal definitions of the words involved are taken into account. Such a phrase is known as an idiom, and it gets its meaning from the way it is used in a culture over time. These idioms allow a speaker to add some spice and color to his or her conversations. One particularly expressive idiom is the phrase "alive and kicking."

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

This idiomatic expression usually refers to someone or something that may have been forgotten about or even considered lost or defunct. The phrase acts as a contrast to this assumption. In fact, the word "kicking" makes it seems that the person or thing in question is doing more than just surviving. By contrast, the person or thing is actually still active and vigorous. As an example, someone might say, "I thought that newspaper had gone under years ago, but I found out yesterday that it's still alive and kicking."

Obviously, the most literal interpretation of the phrase would be if it referred to someone who was thought dead but was actually alive. The usage of this particular idiom is far more expansive than just that narrow reading. In fact, the phrase is often used by sportswriters and sportscasters to describe a team that has come back from a seemingly insurmountable margin. For example, consider the sentence, "The home team seemed to have no hope of winning, but, after scoring 10 points in a row, they are clearly alive and kicking."

The phrase "alive and kicking" came into vogue in the United States in the 19th century. As with many idioms, it isn't clear who coined the phrase. It is still an idiom that is used a great deal though, perhaps because of its evocative nature.

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Discussion Comments


@lighth0se33 – That is awesome. There is no feeling like finding out that someone who has been missing is alive and kicking.

My dog went missing a few days ago. He didn't come home one night, and I cried and prayed for his safety. The next day, my husband and I went searching for him in the snow for two hours.

We didn't find him. When he didn't come home that night either, we assumed that he wasn't coming back. We were devastated, but we hung on to a little ray of hope.

The next morning, I was walking around the yard, praying and grieving a little, when suddenly, my dog rounded the corner of the house! I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but once I realized it really was him, I couldn't even catch my breath, because I was so happy!

Not only was he home; he was in good shape and his belly was full! God really took care of him. I had been worrying about him starving out in the woods somewhere, but all that time, he was alive and kicking!


@StarJo – It's always creepy and first when you see someone you believed to be dead walking about right in front of you. That happened to me at my church, and I wasn't alone.

A little girl had been kidnapped, and though the man who took her had been caught, she had not been found. She had been missing for two months, and everyone assumed she must be dead, since the man would not reveal her location, and he wasn't there to give her food and water.

We were having a memorial service to celebrate her life one night. We had lit candles, and we were in the process of saying prayers when the door opened and in she walked!

Everyone gasped, and we waited a moment to make sure we weren't seeing a ghost or an angel. Meanwhile, her mother screamed and ran up to her. Once we saw that she could be hugged, we knew she must be real.

For awhile, everyone around town who saw her jumped back. She told them all she was alive and kicking, and she found it funny that they acted like they had seen a ghost.


I used to work in the bar of a restaurant where fishermen always hung out. The same men came in all the time, and they had gotten accustomed to seeing each other. They viewed themselves as members of an unofficial club.

So, when one of them didn't come in for an entire month, they thought he must have died at sea. Rumors circulated that a strong wave carried him out to his death, and everyone started to believe it.

Imagine how shocked we were when he walked into the bar the next month! Several of the men turned pale, and one shouted out, “We thought you were dead!'

He responded, “Nope, I'm alive and kicking!” Then, he danced a little jig to show them he was in good health. Everyone was so taken aback that they looked at him as if he were a ghost that whole night.


Once the economy took a downward turn, a couple of places around town started using the phrase “alive and kicking” in their advertising campaigns to let customers know they weren't going under. The types of places that were closing by the hundreds nationwide thought it necessary to let the public know that they weren't yet affected to that extreme.

One local bank ran an ad in the local newspaper with the big, bold words at the top, “We're still alive and kicking!” The ad went on to mention that although big banks were closing locations because of lack of money, they were going strong. Since they depended only on local business, they had a better chance of surviving.

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