1. If someone says “let her rip,” it usually means to go faster, to speed up. The “her” in this case most often refers to a vehicle, like a boat or car.
2. This phrase is also used to mean “go ahead,” where someone is given permission to start something. The example below is used in such a way.
Example: “Hey, can I tell you about my day? It was very eventful and I want to share it with you!
“Alright, let her rip, Jason. I’m all ears.”
Origin Of ‘Let Her Rip’
Let’s take a closer look at two words in this phrase: “her” and “rip.”
The word “her” is sometimes used when referring to vehicles or machinery (e.g., someone might call their car a she or her). On the other hand, the word “rip” is sometimes used in connection with speed (e.g., someone might say they “ripped” through the water in their new motor boat). So much of the time, the “her” in this phrase is a vehicle, and letting that vehicle “rip” is to make it go faster.
That is how this expression is commonly used today. The oldest example I could find of it with its “go faster” meaning is from a book titled Out West, published in the year 1910:
“Git up more steam–this ain’t a funeral! Let her rip! Don’t mind the speed limit! Keep the whistle going!”
The “her” in the quote above is clearly referring to a train.
However, it should be noted that this idiom is older than the quote above. Remember, it also has the meaning of “giving someone permission to start something.” The phrase’s earliest appearance that I could find is from the newspaper Farmington Enterprise, 1809. Notice the way in which it is used:
“‘Say,’ said Tommy, ‘did I ever tell you about the circus we had at our house the other night?’ ‘No,’ said I,
settling back in my chair, ‘let her rip.’ “
So this person agreed to listen to the story, or in other words, he gave Tommy permission to talk about it. Based only on these quotes, this “giving the green light to do something” meaning is older than the “speed up” one, but I could be wrong on that. Anyways, this expression is at least over 200 years old, so that’s neat.
Here are a few example sentences. Note that one sentence will use the idiom, while the other will say the same thing while using a synonymous phrase:
- My friend and I were playing a racing game on TV. I was nearing the finish line, so I let her rip! This was a mistake, however, because I couldn’t control my car at such a high speed, so I crashed into a wall.
- I was playing a racing video game with a friend. With the finish line approaching, I put the pedal to the medal! I soon regretted this, however, because the high speed was too hard to control. Needless to say, I lost the race.
Note: This site has the meanings for phrases, but you probably already knew that. Did you know, though, that the origins for many common idioms cannot be said with a certainty? Indeed, so what’s provided in those cases are explanations that talk about how a phrase came to be.
In addition, quotes that contain a particular phrase may be taken from old newspapers or books. Keep in mind, though, that this does not mean the phrase originates from these sources newspapers, poems, or books.