Kicking In: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 18, 2023

The phrase "kicking in" is a colloquial expression with several meanings depending on the context. Generally, it refers to the start or onset of an effect, particularly in relation to substances or emotions. It can also mean contributing or participating, especially in a group effort.

In short:

  • It refers to the onset of an effect or sensation, especially from medication or drugs.
  • It can also mean contributing or participating in a group activity or effort.

What Does "Kicking In" Mean?

The idiom "kicking in" is versatile and can be used in various contexts. However, its core meaning revolves around something starting to take effect or beginning to show results.

Let's break down its different interpretations:

  • When referring to medicine or drugs, it means the substance is starting to produce the desired or expected effect. For example, "The painkiller is kicking in, and I'm starting to feel better.
  • In the context of machinery or equipment, it indicates the start of its operation. "The generator kicked in when the power went out."
  • It can also mean contributing money or resources to a common cause. "Everyone is kicking in $20 for the gift."
  • In a more general sense, it can signify any action or process that begins to show noticeable effects or results. "His training is finally kicking in, and he's improving rapidly."
  • It can also refer to the action of "kicking in" something with your leg. "I was kicking in the door trying to get inside."

Where Does "Kicking In" Come From?

The term "kick" has been in the English language for centuries, originating from the Old Norse word "kikna," which means to bend at the knee. Over time, the word "kick" evolved to mean a sudden movement or thrust, especially with the foot. This early use of "kick" to denote forceful action might have paved the way for the idiom "kicking in" to signify something starting with force or becoming effective. By the 20th century, "kicking in" was commonly used in various contexts, from machinery starting up to drugs taking effect. Its versatility made it a popular choice in everyday language, and it was often used in literature and newspapers.

10 Examples of "Kicking In" in Sentences

The idiom "kicking in" can be used in a variety of contexts.

Here are ten examples to showcase its versatility:

  • The medicine is finally kicking in, and I'm starting to feel relief.
  • When the main power went out, the backup generator kicked in.
  • After committing to hours of studying, her concentration is just now kicking in.
  • We all kicked in to buy a retirement gift for our boss, and we can't wait to give it to him.
  • It took quite a while, but the effects of the caffeine are finally kicking in.
  • When he realized the gravity of the situation, his instincts kicked in.
  • The team's training kicked in, allowing them to handle the emergency efficiently.
  • As the sun set, the streetlights kicked in.
  • She kicked in $50 for the charity fundraiser.
  • If it weren't for the song that started playing, his memories from that summer wouldn't have kicked in..

Examples of "Kicking In" in Pop Culture

The idiom "kicking in" has made its mark in various facets of pop culture.

Here are some notable mentions:

  • The American rapper Kodak Black has a song called "Kicking In" on his album "Heart Break Kodak" (2018).
  • In many superhero movies, the hero's training fully kicks in when he needs it most. For example, in the movie "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" the titular character's training finally kicks in when he has to fight the villain.
  • In the BLACKPINK song "Kill This Love," rapper Lisa says, "Here I come kick in the door," signifying her dramatic entrance into the song, and this action can also be seen in the music video.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Kicking In"

Like many idioms in the English language, "kicking in" has several synonyms or phrases that convey a similar meaning.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Starting to work
  • Beginning to operate
  • Taking effect
  • Coming into play
  • Setting in
  • Activating
  • Contributing
  • Chipping in
  • Getting into gear
  • Coming to the fore

These alternatives can be used interchangeably with "kicking in" depending on the context, offering flexibility in expression.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Kicking In":

  • What does the idiom "kicking in" generally mean?

It typically refers to something starting to take effect or beginning to show results. For instance, when a medicine starts working, or when a backup system starts operating.

  • Where did the phrase "kicking in" originate?

The exact origins are unclear, but the term "kick" has been in the English language for centuries, originating from the Old Norse word "kikna". Over time, it evolved to signify forceful action, which might have led to the idiom "kicking in".

  • Can "kicking in" be used in different contexts?

Yes, it's a versatile idiom that can refer to medicines taking effect, machinery starting, contributing money, any action/process beginning to show results, or the physical action of kicking in something like a door.

  • Is "kicking in" used in other languages as well?

While the exact phrase might not exist in other languages, many languages have their own idioms or phrases that convey a similar meaning.

  • How often is "kicking in" used in everyday conversation?

It's a commonly used idiom in English, especially in contexts where something is starting to show effects or results.

  • Are there any songs that use the idiom "kicking in"?

Yes, several artists have incorporated the phrase in their lyrics to emphasize a sudden change or realization.

  • Can "kicking in" be used in a formal setting?

While it's primarily a colloquial expression, its use in a formal setting would depend on the context and the audience's familiarity with the idiom.

  • Are there any movies or TV shows that have used "kicking in" in their dialogues?

Yes, it's been used in various TV shows and movies, especially when referring to a drug or medication starting to show its effects or a sudden realization.

  • Is "kicking in" similar to "kicking off"?

Not exactly. While "kicking in" refers to something starting to take effect, "kicking off" generally means to begin or to start, especially in the context of events or activities.

  • Can "kicking in" be used in a negative context?

Yes, like most idioms, its meaning can be positive, neutral, or negative depending on the context. For instance, "The side effects are kicking in" has a negative connotation.

Final Thoughts About "Kicking In"

Idioms like "kicking in" enrich the English language, allowing us to express the idea of something starting to take effect or beginning to show results. They provide a unique way to convey meanings and emotions without always being literal. Over time, these phrases become an integral part of our vocabulary, bridging gaps between cultures and generations.

  • "Kicking in" is a versatile idiom that can be used in various contexts, from medicine taking effect to machinery starting up.
  • Its origins, while not entirely clear, can be traced back to the use of the term "kick" in Old Norse, signifying a forceful action.
  • The idiom has found its way into pop culture, literature, music, and everyday conversations, highlighting its widespread appeal and relevance.
  • Understanding the nuances of "kicking in" and its various interpretations can enhance communication, making it more effective and relatable.

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