roll with the punches

roll with the punches


  1. a thrusting blow, especially with the fist.
  2. forcefulness, effectiveness, or pungency in content or appeal; power; zest: a letter to voters that needs more punch.

verb (used with object)

  1. to give a sharp thrust or blow to, especially with the fist.
  2. Western U.S. and Western Canada. to drive (cattle).
  3. to poke or prod, as with a stick.
  4. Informal. to deliver (lines in a play, a musical passage, or the like) with vigor.
  5. to strike or hit in operating: to punch the typewriter keys.
  6. to put into operation with or as if with a blow: to punch a time clock.
  7. Baseball. to hit (the ball) with a short, chopping motion rather than with a full swing: He punched a soft liner just over third base for a base hit.

verb (used without object)

  1. to give a sharp blow to a person or thing, as with the fist: The boxer punches well.

Verb Phrases

  1. punch away, Informal. to keep trying or working, especially in difficult or discouraging circumstances; persevere: punching away at the same old job.
  2. punch in,
    1. to record one’s time of arrival at work by punching a time clock.
    2. to keyboard (information) into a computer: to punch in the inventory figures.
  3. punch out,
    1. to record one’s time of departure from work by punching a time clock.
    2. beat up or knock out with the fists.
    3. to extract (information) from a computer by the use of a keyboard: to punch out data on last week’s sales.
    4. to bail out; eject from an aircraft.
  4. punch up,
    1. to call up (information) on a computer by the use of a keyboard: to punch up a list of hotel reservations.
    2. enliven, as with fresh ideas or additional material: You’d better punch up that speech with a few jokes.
  1. pull punches,
    1. to lessen deliberately the force of one’s blows.
    2. act with restraint or hold back the full force or implications of something: He wasn’t going to pull any punches when he warned them of what they would be up against.
  2. roll with the punches, Informal. to cope with and survive adversity: In the business world you quickly learn to roll with the punches.


  1. to strike blows (at), esp with a clenched fist
  2. (tr) Western US to herd or drive (cattle), esp for a living
  3. (tr) to poke or prod with a stick or similar object
  4. punch above one’s weight to do something that is considered to be beyond one’s ability


  1. a blow with the fist
  2. informal telling force, point, or vigourhis arguments lacked punch
  3. pull one’s punches See pull (def. 26)


  1. a tool or machine for piercing holes in a material
  2. any of various tools used for knocking a bolt, rivet, etc, out of a hole
  3. a tool or machine used for stamping a design on something or shaping it by impact
  4. the solid die of a punching machine for cutting, stamping, or shaping material
  5. computing a device, such as a card punch or tape punch, used for making holes in a card or paper tape
  6. See centre punch


  1. (tr) to pierce, cut, stamp, shape, or drive with a punch


  1. any mixed drink containing fruit juice and, usually, alcoholic liquor, generally hot and spiced


  1. the main character in the traditional children’s puppet show Punch and Judy

“to thrust, push; jostle;” also, “prod, to drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding,” late 14c., from Old French ponchonner “to punch, prick, stamp,” from ponchon “pointed tool, piercing weapon” (see punch (n.1)). Meaning “to pierce, emboss with a tool” is from early 15c.; meaning “to stab, puncture” is from mid-15c. To punch a ticket, etc., is from mid-15c. To punch the clock “record one’s arrival at or departure from the workplace using an automated timing device” is from 1900. Related: Punched; punching.

Perhaps you are some great big chief, who has a lot to say.
Who lords it o’er the common herd who chance to come your way;
Well, here is where your arrogance gets a dreadful shock,
When you march up, like a private, salute, and PUNCH THE CLOCK.

[from “Punch the Clock,” by “The Skipper,” “The Commercial Telegraphers’ Journal,” May 1912]

Specialized sense “to hit with the fist” first recorded 1520s. Cf. Latin pugnare “to fight with the fists,” from a root meaning “to pierce, sting.” In English this was probably influenced by punish; “punch” or “punsch” for “punish” is found in documents from 14c.-15c.:

punchyth me, Lorde, and spare my blyssyd wyff Anne. [Coventry Mystery Plays, late 15c.]

To punch (someone) out “beat up” is from 1971.


“pointed tool for making holes or embossing,” late 14c., short for puncheon (mid-14c.), from Old French ponchon, poinchon “pointed tool, piercing weapon,” from Vulgar Latin *punctionem (nominative *punctio) “pointed tool,” from past participle stem of Latin pungere “to prick” (see pungent). From mid-15c. as “a stab, thrust;” late 15c. as “a dagger.” Meaning “machine for pressing or stamping a die” is from 1620s.


type of mixed drink, 1630s, traditionally since 17c. said to derive from Hindi panch “five,” in reference to the number of original ingredients (spirits, water, lemon juice, sugar, spice), from Sanskrit panchan-s, from pancha “five” (see five). But there are difficulties (see OED), and connection to puncheon (n.1) is not impossible.


the puppet show star, 1709, shortening of Punchinello (1666), from Italian (Neapolitan) Pollecinella, Pollecenella, diminutive of pollecena “turkey pullet,” probably in allusion to his big nose. The phrase pleased as punch apparently refers to his unfailing triumph over enemies. The comic weekly of this name was published in London from 1841.


“a quick blow with the fist,” by 1570s, probably from punch (v.). In early use also of blows with the foot or jabs with a staff or club. Originally especially of blows that sink in to some degree (“… whom he unmercifully bruises and batters from head to foot: here a slap in the chaps, there a black eye, now a punch in the stomach, and then a kick on the breech,” “Monthly Review,” 1763). Figurative sense of “forceful, vigorous quality” is recorded from 1911. To beat (someone) to the punch in the figurative sense is from 1915, a metaphor from boxing (attested by 1913). Punch line (also punch-line) is from 1915 (originally in popular-song writing); punch-drunk is from 1915 (alternative form slug-nutty is from 1933).

Cope with and withstand adversity, especially by being flexible. For example, She’d had three different editors for her book, each with a different style, but she’d learned to roll with the punches. This term alludes to the boxer’s ability to deflect the full force of an opponent’s blow by adroitly moving his body. [Mid-1900s]

In addition to the idioms beginning with punch

  • punch in
  • punch out

also see:

  • beat to it (the punch)
  • can’t punch one’s way out of a paper bag
  • pack a punch
  • pleased as punch
  • pull no punches
  • roll with the punches
  • sucker punch
  • throw a punch

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