Assume the Position: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 3, 2023

When we say someone has "assumed the position," we mean that they have adopted a specific posture, often in response to a particular circumstance or command. This phrase frequently denotes compliance or readiness for an expected event, be it in a professional or personal setting.

In short:

The idiom "assume the position" means adopting a particular posture or role in anticipation of an event or command.

What Does "Assume the Position" Mean?

In a broad sense, "assume the position" implies preparing oneself physically or mentally for a specific circumstance, often following a command or an expectation. People use it in various contexts, from professional environments to everyday situations.

  • It can express readiness for a physical task, such as a sport or exercise. For instance, "Before the kick-off, players assume their positions on the field."
  • It is also used to signify compliance with an authority's command, especially in law enforcement scenarios. An example might be: "The police officer instructed the suspect to assume the position for a pat-down."
  • It can indicate a person's role in a professional or personal setup. You might say, "Upon the CEO's retirement, his successor had to assume the position quickly."

Where Does "Assume the Position" Come From?

The origin of the phrase "assume the position" is somewhat unclear, but it has often been used in military and law enforcement contexts, where people are commanded to adopt a particular posture or role. In these situations, "assuming the position" typically signifies compliance with an order or instruction.

Historical Usage

"The writer does not wish to be supposed as calling in question the motives of parties, who may assume the position, that THE MODERATE DRINKER IS WORSE THAN THE DRUNKARD..."

- The Border Herald, 1851

10 Examples of "Assume the Position" in Sentences

To better understand the usage of the idiom, let's look at its application in different contexts:

  • Before the yoga session began, everyone was asked to assume the position on their mats.
  • The soldiers quickly assumed their positions when the commander gave the order.
  • Upon hearing the warning, everyone in the building assumed the position of an earthquake drill.
  • Please assume the position of meeting chair at your convenience, so we can discuss the new project.
  • At the police officer's command, the suspect assumed the position for a search.
  • Once the music started, the dancers assumed their positions and began to perform.
  • Challenging the status quo, she quickly assumed the position of a reformist in the organization.
  • The company assumed the position on my behalf, addressing the media inquiries regarding the new product launch.
  • As soon as the policy goes into effect, our department will assume the position of oversight to ensure compliance.
  • Assuming the position of the team's lead is fine by me, we can make the announcement next week.

Examples of "Assume the Position" in Pop Culture

The idiom "assume the position" is often found in various elements of pop culture, from movies to books, further solidifying its usage:

  • Assume the Position” is a 2003 book by Jim Kouri, a writer and a well-known television and radio personality. This book gives a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes work of police science, such as crime scene investigation, forensic psychology, criminal profiling, and interrogation techniques.
  • Dancers! Assume the Position” is a 2014 book by Marlita Hill, a dancer and a ministry leader. This book explains the purpose, the meaning, and the impact of the dancer’s ministry in the church and in the world.
  • Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl” is a 2006 TV series by Robert Wuhl, a comedian and actor. This series features Wuhl as a history teacher who gives humorous and unconventional lectures on American history and culture.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Assume the Position"

There are several alternatives to "assume the position," each providing a slightly different connotation, depending on the context:

  • Adopt the posture
  • Prepare for the role
  • Get into place
  • Get ready
  • Take one's place
  • Brace oneself

Each of these alternatives offers a slightly different nuance, so choose the one that fits your context best.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Assume the Position":

  • What is the meaning of "assume the position"?

The phrase "assume the position" refers to adopting a specific posture or role in anticipation of a specific event or in response to a command.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "assume the position"?

While the exact origin is unclear, "assume the position" has been often used in military and law enforcement contexts, signaling compliance to an order or instruction.

  • Can "assume the position" have negative connotations?

Generally, "assume the position" is a neutral phrase, depending on the context it can take on positive or negative connotations. In a law enforcement context, for example, it may have a negative connotation.

  • Is "assume the position" used in formal contexts?

Yes, the phrase can be used in both formal and informal contexts, but it's more commonly found in formal or structured settings, such as military or professional environments.

  • How can I replace "assume the position" in a sentence?

Depending on the context, phrases like "adopt the posture," "prepare for the role," or "get into place" could be used as replacements.

  • Is "assume the position" an American idiom?

"Assume the position" is widely understood in English-speaking regions, not just in America. It is commonly used in professional, academic, and athletic contexts.

  • Do people use it in everyday conversation?

While the phrase isn't as commonly used in casual conversations, it is still understood and used when discussing situations requiring specific positions or roles.

  • Does "assume the position" imply a temporary state?

Yes, it often refers to a temporary posture, role, or state that one adopts for a specific situation or purpose.

  • Can I use it to describe people?

Yes, "assume the position" can describe individuals, especially in the context of adopting a certain role or posture. For example, "He assumed the position of a leader in the team."

  • Can I use it in a literal sense?

Yes, "assume the position" can be used both literally, as in physically adopting a specific position, and figuratively, as in preparing to undertake a certain role.

Final Thoughts About "Assume the Position"

"Assume the position" is a versatile idiom that expresses both literal and figurative adoption of a posture, role, or state.

  • The idiom is neutral but can carry positive or negative connotations based on context.
  • It finds its roots in structured settings but has evolved to convey broader concepts of readiness and preparedness.
  • "Assume the position" is adaptable, fitting into a range of formal and informal settings.

Understanding this idiom enriches our language, enabling us to express complex concepts of readiness, compliance, or anticipation in an easily relatable manner.

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