show up

Idioms & Phrases

show up

  1. Be clearly visible, as in The print doesn't show up against this dark background. [Late 1800s]

  2. Put in an appearance, arrive, as in I wonder if he'll show up at all. [Late 1800s]

  3. Expose or reveal the true character of, as in This failure showed up their efforts as a waste of time. [Early 1800s]

  4. Also, show someone up. Surpass someone in ability, outdo someone, as in John's high score on that math test really showed up the rest of the class. [Colloquial; first half of 1900s]

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