catch napping

Idioms & Phrases

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 Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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