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Alternate Meanings of “Grip” — Deeper English

Learn some new expressions, vocab, & slang

Igal Ness

Are you learning English and feel pretty comfortable with your language level? If so, you probably know the word “grip” already.

If not, write it down — I won’t tell anyone ;)

The fun part of learning a language is taking that extra step to dig in and discover new expressions. It’s also cool to see what words are used differently in specific parts of the world. Well, that’s just what we’re here to do! Let’s get a grip, shall we?

Grip — the usual meaning

The common and original meaning of a grip is a firm hold on something. This can be physical, like holding an object firmly in your hand. It can also be figurative, like having a mental or emotional “hold” on something, which is like being in control of it. A “grip” is a noun, and “to grip” is an action.

  • Remember to grip the phone so you won’t drop it.
  • In business, we like associates who shake with a strong grip.

Related phrasal verbs are:

Grip on / onto — to get a firm hold onto something

  • Now, grip on tight to this rope and don’t let go.

Get a grip — usually used for emotional problems, to get control of one’s feelings or emotional state

  • This job must be hard for Joe, but he needs to get a grip before the boss fires him.

Lose grip — to lose control, either physically or emotionally; to enter into a state of chaos and confusion; you can also lose a physical grip on an object

  • The internet is making people lose their grip on reality.

Have a grip — to have good understanding or control over something, like a topic

  • Most people find programming hard, but Tina has a good grip on it.

A Sidenote on Grips

In the film industry, a grip is any number of people on a movie set who are in charge of arranging lights, rigging, setting tracks, and almost anything else related to film set construction. This is not an everyday word for most people though and is specific to filmmaking.

A Lot of Grip

Mostly in American slang, at least in the black community that I grew up in, a grip can sometimes take on a different meaning. Some people use it to talk about a large amount of something. A little less common, sometimes “grip” is used to mean a long time.

  • I don’t feel like going to the store today. There’s always a grip of people there on Sunday.
  • We should go to the movies. We haven’t been there in a grip.

This slang meaning seems a lot different from the original “firm hold” meaning of the word. The origin of this slang probably comes from the similarities between a “grip” and a “handful.” When you hold a handful of small items or money in your hand, it seems like a lot (similarly, a handful also refers to a lot of something). Over time, a handful or grip of something became synonymous with a lot, and it’s been used like this ever since.

As I said, this slang is mainly used by speakers of African American Vernacular English in the U.S. Still, this version of English is very influential worldwide because of black American artists, actors, athletes, and so on. So, there are likely many people worldwide who have at least heard this.

To most English speakers though, even many in the U.S., this slang is not super well-known. It is common in the kind of English I grew up hearing and speaking, making it more dialectal or local.


Want another cool tip? One more great idiom using this word is to come to grips with something. All that means is to deal with something such as a difficult challenge or to accept something that is hard to face. A related expression is to “come to terms with” something.

  • I still don’t think we have come to grips with what happened in 2020.
  • Tina needs to come to grips with the fact that her fashion sense is terrible! (Sorry, Tina)

Question: How do you say this word in your native language?

Feel free to join Culture Surf for related topics in the future! Learn about the languages and cultures of the world while sharing your own!



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No Expert But Of Himself — aka Trystn Waller. Just writing what I know, a bit of what I think I know, hopefully I help others know a bit more than they knew.