1. To tolerate or ‘roll’ with the hardships one may unexpectedly run into.
2. It can also refer to a boxing term that means to position, or move one’s body or head in such a way so as to decrease the force of impact of the opponent’s incoming punches.
Example: I just lost my job, one that I’ve had for years! Now when I wake up in the morning, it feels weird not having to go to work. Finding another job will not be easy, but I’ll just have to roll with the punches and try my best.
The Origin Of ‘Rolling With The Punches’
This phrase is believed to originate with boxing, where ‘rolling with the punches’ was, and still is, a boxing term. The term is used to explain how boxers will often angle themselves in certain ways to help lessen the impact of incoming strikes. For instance, if an opponent throws a left punch, a boxer can ‘roll’ with it by moving his body and head backwards and to the left. As a result, even if the punch lands, it won’t be quite as damaging as a full contact strike.
The earliest quote that I could find of this phrase is from the early 20th century. This example is from a newspaper called The Boston Daily Globe, 1903. The expression is used in connection with boxing, which is unsurprising given that it came from this sport. Anyways, in a part of the newspaper, a summary is given of a recent sparring match, and it reads:
“He repeated the blow a few seconds later and also clubbed Johnson on the cheek . . . Johnson allowed his head to roll with the punches and was not hurt. Johnson’s round.”
While the phrase remains as a boxing term today, it has also developed a figurative meaning that’s used outside the context of boxing
- Taylor’s car broke down on his way to work, so he had no choice but to roll with the punches and call a taxi, even though it meant he’d show up late.
Note: Know Your Phrase has the meanings for numerous common phrases, sayings, and idioms, and even the origins for them too! However, did you know that the origins for a lot of expressions are not clear? So when it is unclear where an expression originates from, what you’ll see instead is a theory about how a phrase came to be. If no theory is listed, then usually a quote will included on the idiom’s page. These quotes are generally the oldest known citations of the idiom being used in writing.
Anyways, if you have one in particular that you’re looking for, feel free to use the alphabetical list to find it. If you are unable to find it, maybe come back another time, as more expressions are being added.