The term “what goes up must come down” is a phrase that means things that rise must eventually return to the earth due to gravity.
Example: Simon accidentally let go of the big balloon his parents had bought for him. As it slowly ascended into the sky, Simon stared at it and wondered if it would float all the way to the moon. So his parents told him: “What goes up must come down, it will fall back down to the earth eventually.”
The Origin Of ‘What Goes Up Must Come Down’
Things that are launched into the air will return back to the ground. Why? Because gravity, that’s why. Whether it’s someone jumping up as high as they can, a football being thrown over an open field, or airplanes flying from one country to another, all of these things cannot remain in the air forever. Eventually, due to the force of gravity, they will have to return to the ground. That’s the idea behind the phrase. It’s basically a simple observation of what gravity does to people and objects.
This is one of the older phrases in English that’s still in use today. Yes, this saying is nearing 200 years old. It dates back to the early 19th century, and its wording from that time is actually identical to what it is today. For example, in Theodore Sedgwick’s Hints to my Countrymen, 1826, it reads:
“When one boy among a dozen throws a stone into the air, crying out, that ‘what goes up must come down,’ it is very likely so to happen.”
- Barnes’ pet bird escaped from his house and flew away. He knew that what goes up must come down, so he put a perch outside and hoped his bird would come back.
Note: Know Your Phrase (that’s, you know, this site) has the meaning and origin of hundreds of phrases. It’s true, and we even have a convenient list that you can use to find all of your favorite common expressions. Assuming you have a favorite. Do you? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Look, the menu is at the top, so get exploring if you want to!
P.S. When you see a phrase quoted from a book, newspaper, or other work, the purpose of these quote(s) is to give some kind of indication on the phrase’s age. It does not necessarily mean that the expression originated from that very source. In all likelihood, if a certain phrase appears in something like a newspaper, then it’s probably already an established idiom at that time, and thus its origin is older.