Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Hold Up and Hold On

‘Hold up’ and ‘hold on’ are both verb phrases. They can often be confused because they have the same root word. To make matters worse, they have a shared meaning and can be used interchangeably for that meaning, which can make it a confusing thing to learn.

‘Hold up’, in the most literal sense, means to hold something upwards, or to lift something in your hand. It can also mean to physically support something.

Hold up the gem so we can see it.

Hold the table up so I can slide this under it.

It also has a number of meanings as slang. The first is typically used when testing something. ‘Holding up’, in this scenario, means to survive a test or something else that will challenge the thing in question.

It held up well during the stress test.

I want to see how this new diving suit will hold up when we use it underwater.

This meaning is related to the literal meaning of supporting something. If you hold something up, then you are supporting it. If it holds up on its own, then it can support itself and is more likely to survive in other conditions.

It can also apply to people. If someone is going through a tough time, then ‘holding up’ refers to how they are handling the situation.

The next meaning is usually found in bargains. It refers to how someone is doing in fulfilling the terms of an agreement. If someone is holding up their end of the agreement, then they are doing what they agreed to do.

He agreed to deliver the kittens once he was paid, but he did not hold up his end.

This is, again, related to the meaning of supporting something. It’s similar to two people lifting a couch. If they are both holding up their end of the couch, then they are both doing the work.

The final meaning is a slowdown or when something is forced to stop.

The project was going fine, but we were held up when a delivery was a month late.

There is a related idiom. When a place is held up, it usually means that it was robbed at gunpoint. In fact, armed robberies are typically referred to as holdups.

The literal meaning of the phrase ‘hold on’ is to grasp something firmly or to continue holding it.

Hold on to the rail; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Like ‘hold up’, it also has a few figurative meanings. The first is to keep something, whether it is a physical object or a set of morals.

He held on to the figurine because his mother gave it to him.

It is also used to ask someone to temporarily take something.

Hold on to my umbrella while I fix the pipes.

Finally, there is the shared meaning. Both ‘hold up’ and ‘hold on’ can be used to ask someone to wait.

Hold up for a second.

Hold on while I finish this.

Technically speaking, the two do have different meanings. ‘Hold up’ is used to ask a person to stop or make a delay and ‘hold on’ is used to ask a person to wait. However, the two words are used interchangeably. There is not much difference between asking someone to wait and asking them to stop.

To summarize, ‘hold up’ means to support something, whether it be physically, metaphorically, or something it does itself. It also means to delay something. ‘Hold on’ means to hold something with intensity or to keep something for a long time. In both cases, they can be used to ask someone to wait, but they can be used interchangeably.


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1 Comment

  1. Why wasn’t it just explained like this: “Hold on” is what white people say and “Hold up” is what black people say.

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