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Denotation vs. Connotation

catch napping

Surprise, take unawares. This term is often used in the passive, as in The United States was really caught napping the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor . It originated in the mid-1500s as to be taken napping also see under: off guard
The American HeritageĀ® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright Ā© 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Historical Examples
  • But he was one of those wary old watch-dogs who are hard to catch napping.

    The Chouans Honore de Balzac

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