If you do something right off the bat, you do it immediately, without delay.
Example: Nathan was in the mood for a cheeseburger, so he hopped into his car and bought some fast food. After unwrapping the burger, he took a bite and right off the bat he knew that something was wrong; it didn’t taste right. Taking a closer look, he saw that the cheese was missing! (In other words, he immediately noticed that something was off about the cheeseburger’s taste.
The Origin Of ‘Right Off The Bat’
This common phrase likely comes from baseball. How so? When a batter swings at a baseball and hits it, the ball comes ‘right off the bat’ and the batter takes immediate action afterwards by running to first base. This quick response taken by the batter seems to be where the expression originated and got its meaning of ‘doing something right away, without delay.’
As for how old this idiom is, it goes back to at least the 1880s. I’m unable to find it print from before then, so maybe it originated around that time. Anyways, during the 1880s, this expression appears in newspapers and it is used in relation to baseball, but also outside of that context. For example, in the Albion New Era newspaper, 1883, it reads:
“A person unused to it would net catch one ‘fly’ out of fifty, and as for stopping and holding a hot liner right off the bat, he might as well attempt to gather in a solid shot fired point blank from a Parrot gun.”
The quote above is talking about baseball. This next example is the saying used outside the context of baseball. This example comes five years later in the Biddeford Journal, 1888:
“Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I’ll give it to him right off the bat. I’ll wipe up the floor with him.”
- Bill returned home from work and as he walked through the door, right off the bat he smelled some delicious stir fry cooking in the kitchen.
- When he went to trim the plants in his back yard, right out of the gate he saw a dozen bees flying around; this task would not be easy for him.
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Note: The provided quotations are meant to give you an idea on a phrase’s age. Generally, I try to include the earliest quotes I can find of the expression, but it’s possible that older recordings exist and I missed them.