Get Ahold Of (One): Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 22, 2023

The phrase "get ahold of" is an idiomatic expression with multiple meanings depending on the context. It might refer to physically grasping something, successfully communicating with someone, exerting influence or control over a situation or person, or even capturing someone's attention or imagination.

In short:

  • People use this phrase when they are actively trying to communicate, grasp, control, or attract something or someone.
  • It's a versatile idiom that can be applied in a variety of contexts, whether it's a tangible interaction or a metaphorical one.

What Does "Get Ahold Of" Mean?

"Get ahold of" is a multi-faceted English phrase that shifts its meaning according to the situation. It can convey everything from physically grabbing something, successfully reaching out to someone, gaining control or influence, to catching someone's interest or attention.

Let's delve into its key meanings and uses:

  • As a literal expression, "get ahold of" can mean to grasp or grab something or someone physically.
    • For example, if you say, "Get ahold of the railing," you are instructing someone to physically hold onto the railing.
  • In a communicative context, "get ahold of" means successfully making contact with someone.
    • If you say, "I need to get ahold of my lawyer," you're implying you need to contact your lawyer and have a conversation.
  • When discussing influence, "get ahold of" can signify gaining control over a situation or person.
    • For instance, "Once the new coach got ahold of the team, their performance dramatically improved."
  • Finally, "get ahold of" can imply capturing someone's interest or attention.
    • An example could be, "The true-to-life mystery novel got ahold of me, and I couldn't put it down."

Where Does "Get Ahold Of" Come From?

The origin of the exact phrase “get ahold of” is unclear, but it uses the word “ahold,” which means to grasp or grip something—the first use in print dates back to the late 1500s. The phrase likely became popular in the early 20th century as telephone communication grew more common, making it easier to reach out to someone but also enabling people to be harder to contact.

Historical Example

"Well, that all depends on what your ( sic ) doing, sometimes you get ahold of something you can't lift, and then you holler for help."

- Records and Briefs of the United States Supreme Court, 1832

10 Examples of "Get Ahold Of" in Sentences

To help clarify when and how to use this idiom, here are some examples in different contexts:

  • The lifeguard instructed the kids to get ahold of the safety ropes during the swimming lesson.
  • I was finally able to get ahold of my colleague when he asked me to ping him on the office chat.
  • The hypnotic melody of the song managed to get ahold of listeners around the globe.
  • I was stuck in traffic when I finally managed to get ahold of my assistant to reschedule the meeting.
  • Out of spite, he deleted my number, making it almost impossible for me to get ahold of him.
  • You need to get ahold of your emotions and stop letting them control your actions.
  • Last night, I got so gooned that my friends had trouble getting ahold of me.
  • My cousin can be a little coo-coo sometimes, and it's not always easy to get ahold of him.
  • The last chapter of the thriller got ahold of me, and I stayed up all night to finish the book.
  • During my search for the lost file, I was able to get ahold of some important documents I had misplaced.

Examples of "Get Ahold Of" in Pop Culture

The phrase "get ahold of" is commonly used in pop culture, often indicating an effort to reach out or exert influence.

Check out these instances:

  • A quote from the 2006 book "The Balloons of Oaxaca" by Barry Hard: "There's a ton of people here in the city, and there's lots of money. All you've gotta do is think up a way to get ahold of it."
  • Bill Peter's sci-fi novel "Maverick Jetpants in the City of Quality" also uses the phrase: "Via the payphone in the bathroom corridor, I manage to get ahold of Necro—which has been like trying to get ahold of the Pope over the last month—to meet me here."
  • "Get a Hold" (2017) is a short film by directors Spike Phoenix and Drew Wyrick. The movie follows a man experiencing an existential crisis who vanishes without a trace.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Get Ahold Of"

There are a variety of other expressions that can be used interchangeably with "get ahold of," depending on the context.

Here are a few of them:

  • Grab hold of
  • Get in touch with
  • Reach out to
  • Capture
  • Grasp
  • Secure
  • Obtain
  • Control
  • Seize
  • Engage with

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Get Ahold Of":

  • What does "get ahold of" mean?

"Get ahold of" generally means to contact or reach someone, but can also mean to gain control or understanding of something or someone.

  • How can I use "get ahold of" in a sentence?

An example sentence might be, "As per my last email, please try to get ahold of the client and discuss the changes in the project plan."

  • Where does the idiom "get ahold of" come from?

The phrase "get ahold of" likely originates from the idea of physically grasping something or someone, which has evolved to also include abstract concepts like control and understanding.

  • Can you use "get ahold of" in personal contexts?

Yes, "get ahold of" can be used in personal contexts, such as trying to reach a friend or family member, or gaining control over one's emotions.

  • Can "get ahold of" mean gaining control over a situation?

Yes, "get ahold of" can refer to gaining control over a situation or understanding of a concept. For example, "I finally got ahold of my finances."

  • Is "get ahold of" used in professional contexts?

Yes, it can be used in a professional context, such as when trying to reach a colleague, or when understanding a new project or task.

  • What does it mean to "get ahold of oneself"?

To "get ahold of oneself" means to regain control over one's emotions or behavior. It's often used when someone needs to calm down or collect themselves.

  • Can "get ahold of" refer to physical possession?

Yes, it can refer to obtaining physical possession of something. For example, "I need to get ahold of the book before the exam."

  • Is "get ahold of" a universal concept?

Yes, while the phrase is English, the concept of reaching someone or gaining control or understanding of something is a universal human experience, recognized across different cultures and languages.

Final Thoughts About "Get Ahold Of"

The phrase "get ahold of" reflects human life's necessity for communication, understanding, and control. It can apply to personal, professional, or situational contexts, adding to its versatility and widespread use in the English language.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Get ahold of" can refer to contacting someone, understanding something, or gaining control.
  • You can use it in a variety of contexts, from personal to professional.
  • The phrase emphasizes the importance of communication, control, and understanding in successful human interactions and experiences.

Remember that idioms like "get ahold of" enrich the language, making it more vivid and expressive. Understanding and using them correctly can enhance your English communication skills.

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