We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does "Catch as Catch Can" Mean?

Jim B.
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

"Catch as catch can" is an English idiom that means that something must be accomplished by any method possible. If a job or task is described in this manner, it may hint at a lack of planning on the part of the person doing it. The implication is that the way in which something is achieved is not as important as whether it gets done. This phrase gets its origins from the sport of wrestling, where a match without any restrictions on the types of holds that may be used is called a "catch as catch can" match.

An idiom is a short expression or phrase that may not mean what the words it contains suggest based on their literal definitions. Instead, an idiom can gain its meaning over time from the way it is used in a culture, even if this meaning has little to no connection to its literal origins. Using such phrases allows speakers to add some color and impact to their conversations with others. One such idiom is the phrase "catch as catch can."

Basically, the phrase means that a person doing something can take many different avenues to getting it done. As long as the thing gets done, though, it doesn't really matter what method was used. In this way, the phrase suggests that a person should be concerned with the results first and foremost rather than the means. For example, someone might say, "It was pretty much a catch as catch can job, but even though it was an unorthodox method, we got it done."

There is also often a connotation attached to this phrase that suggests that a job might have been done with little planning or foresight. When used in this way, the phrase implies that the people doing the job simply put their heads down and went to work until they were finished. As a result, the effort may not have been as efficient as it could have been, but it was nonetheless effective. Using this context, consider the sentence, "I built that deck with no instructions; it was pretty much catch as catch can."

In the sport of wrestling, the two combatants try to wrap each other up in a series of different holds. Many types of wrestling only allow certain types of holds, but "catch as catch can" wrestling has no such restraints. As a result, this phrase is often closely associated with the phrase "no holds barred," which also comes from wrestling.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Jim B.
By Jim B.
Freelance writer - Jim Beviglia has made a name for himself by writing for national publications and creating his own successful blog. His passion led to a popular book series, which has gained the attention of fans worldwide. With a background in journalism, Beviglia brings his love for storytelling to his writing career where he engages readers with his unique insights.
Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Jul 18, 2012

Origin of some idioms are so complicated. My English instructor was talking about the catch as catch can origin yesterday. He said that it's not known for sure whether this idiom really came from wrestling or from somewhere else. Apparently, there are some known uses of it in relation to love and romance.

For example, it was used to talk about men who are always flirting with women. It was said that they woo women catch as catch can. And this idiom is unbelievably old. Some of the literature date back to the 1600s, even late 1500s! Can you believe it? I would have never expected this idiom to have been around for so long.

By stoneMason — On Jul 17, 2012

@anamur-- I think you've got it but I don't think that "catch as catch can" implies anything about something being done fairly or not. It's just talking about getting something done in whichever way it is possible.

It doesn't necessarily have to be about methods either. You could be low on supplies for a homework project for example. And getting the homework done catch as catch can would mean that you will complete it with whichever supplies you can get hold of. So it might be about not having all the means but managing the situation regardless.

By serenesurface — On Jul 17, 2012

I came across this idiom recently in a novel and had absolutely no idea what it meant. Not until I read the connection to wrestling here that it's making more sense to me. Although, I'm still a bit confused about the part of the "catch as catch can" definition that says "any method possible."

What exactly does that mean? Does it mean that people should use whichever means necessary, whether fair or not, to accomplish something?

I'm guessing it means something like this since it's originally talking about a form of wrestling where there were no rules. So wrestlers could use whichever moves they wanted to beat their opponent. Kind of like "all is fair game."

Did I understand this idiom correctly or am I completely off?

Jim B.
Jim B.
Freelance writer - Jim Beviglia has made a name for himself by writing for national publications and creating his own...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.