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[purk] /pɜrk/
verb (used without object)
to become lively, cheerful, or vigorous, as after depression or sickness (usually followed by up):
The patients all perked up when we played the piano for them.
to act, or carry oneself, in a jaunty manner.
to put oneself forward briskly or presumptuously.
verb (used with object)
to make smart, trim, or jaunty (sometimes followed by up or out):
to perk up a suit with a new white blouse.
to raise smartly or briskly (often followed by up or out):
to perk one's head up.
perky; jaunty:
a perk manner.
Origin of perk1
1350-1400; Middle English perken; perhaps akin to peer2
Related forms
perkingly, adverb
perkish, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for perk up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • After lunch he would always begin to perk up and deny that he had been really drunk the night before.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • The good custom was established and Meg began to perk up again.

    Jan and Her Job L. Allen Harker
  • What is done to Lordsburg we can stand, but a blow at our own warbags, even in antic'pation, is calc'lated to cause us to perk up.

    Faro Nell and Her Friends Alfred Henry Lewis
  • You get int' your best clothes and perk up a bit; you can boss it over Janet.

    Janet of the Dunes Harriet T. Comstock
  • Anyhow, your comin' hez been a good thing fur Nancy, an' I reckons she'll begin to perk up from now on.

    Darry the Life Saver Frank V. Webster
  • Aunty Rose declared that Carolyn May began at once to perk up.

    Carolyn of the Corners Ruth Belmore Endicott
  • But, in this other lot, the shoots are commencin' to perk up, an' insec's have stirred the mold.

  • Andy forgot his personal embarrassment and began to perk up his ears.

    The Happy Family Bertha Muzzy Bower
  • Bless my soul, if Lucia did not perk up the second the forelady left, edge over, and direct a volume of Italian at me.

    Working With the Working Woman Cornelia Stratton Parker
British Dictionary definitions for perk up

perk up

verb (adverb)
to make or become more cheerful, hopeful, or lively
to rise or cause to rise briskly: the dog's ears perked up
(transitive) to make smarter in appearance: she perked up her outfit with a bright scarf
(intransitive) (Austral, slang) to vomit
Word Origin
C14 perk, perhaps from Norman French perquer; see perch1


pert; brisk; lively
See perk up
Word Origin
C16: see perk up


verb (informal)
(intransitive) (of coffee) to percolate
(transitive) to percolate (coffee)


(Brit, informal) short for perquisite
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for perk up



late 14c., "to make oneself trim or smart," perhaps from Old North French perquer "to perch" (Modern French percher; see perch (n.1)), on notion of a bird preening its plumage. Sense of "raise oneself briskly" is first attested 1520s; perk up "recover liveliness" is from 1650s. Related: Perked; perking.


1869, shortened and altered form of perquisite (q.v.); as a verb, 1934 as shortened and altered form of percolate.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for perk up

perk up

verb phrase

  1. To stimulate; invigorate: Gotta perk up this class (1965+)
  2. To recuperate; recover; gain energy: He's perked up after a two-week illness (1706+)

[origin uncertain; perhaps related to perch, and semantically to the notion of being placed high]

perk 1


Percolated coffee (1950s+)


To run smoothly and well; percolate: The project's perking now (1925+)

perk 2


Extra money, privileges, fringe benefits, etc, pertaining to a job or assignment: His men were delighted to be in Afghanistan, he said, mostly because of the perks

[1824+; fr perquisite]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for perk up


The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with perk up

perk up

Restore to good spirits, liveliness, or good appearance, as in You're exhausted, but a cup of tea will perk you up, or The flowers perked up the whole room. [ Mid-1600s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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