Make It Up: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
August 31, 2023

The expression "make it up" is a multifaceted phrase, signaling an intent to compensate, invent, or reconcile. It can be like saying, "I'm sorry, let me fix this," or "I just thought of this idea." People use it in regular conversations when they want to say sorry or when they come up with a story on the spot.

In short:

  • "Make it up" primarily means to compensate someone for a wrongdoing or to invent something on the spot.

What Does "Make It Up" Mean?

"Make it up" is a handy phrase that can mean saying sorry, coming up with a story, or finding a solution to a problem. Whether you've made a mistake with a friend, are thinking of a fun story, or are trying to fix something, using "make it up" is a great way to explain what you're doing.

Here are the primary meanings associated with it:

  • Compensate for a wrong or mistake.
  • Invent something, like a story or an excuse, spontaneously.
  • Reconcile with someone after a disagreement.

Understanding the meaning of "make it up" often depends on the context in which it's used. A person might "make up" a story on the spot, or two friends might "make up" after a fight.

Where Does "Make It Up" Come From?

The origin of "make it up" is a bit hazy, but it's believed to have evolved from different expressions and usages.

Compensating for a Wrong

"I will make it up to you" has been a way to promise restitution for some harm done, and this usage might be tied to medieval trade practices where merchants were expected to compensate for any shortcomings in their products or services.

Inventing on the Spot

The act of fabricating stories or excuses might have originated from the world of theater, where actors sometimes had to improvise or "make up" their lines if they forgot them.

10 Examples of "Make It Up" in Sentences

Here are a few examples that showcase the different ways "make it up" can be used:

  • I'm sorry I missed your birthday party. Let me make it up to you by taking you out for dinner.
  • She arrived fashionably late to the party but promised to make it up by bringing an extra dessert everyone loved.
  • After their disagreement, they decided to make up and remain friends.
  • I can't believe he just made up that story on the spot!
  • She tends to eat like a bird during the week. She tries to make it up by indulging in her favorite foods.
  • While I was putzing around in the garden, I realized I missed our coffee date. I'll make it up to you with lunch tomorrow.
  • His early performance didn't bode well for the team's chances, but he managed to make it up with an outstanding play in the final minutes.
  • They always make up after a fight, no matter how big.
  • I had to switch gears in the middle of the project due to unexpected challenges, but I promise I'll make it up by ensuring the final result is even better.
  • She made up a song for her daughter's birthday.

Examples of "Make It Up" in Pop Culture

  • In the film The Breakfast Club, characters often try to make up stories about their lives to impress others.
  • The song "Make It Up" by Sam Tsui discusses reconciling after arguments.
  • In TV series like Friends, characters frequently try to make it up to each other after misunderstandings.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Make It Up"

  • Recompense
  • Compensate
  • Reconcile
  • Invent
  • Improvise
  • Concoct

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Make It Up"

  • What does "make it up" mean in a relationship context?

In a relationship, "make it up" usually refers to reconciling after a disagreement or doing something nice for the other person to compensate for a mistake or oversight.

  • Is "make it up" always used in a positive sense?

No, while "make it up" can be positive, as in reconciling, it can also be neutral or negative, like when someone invents a lie.

  • Does "make it up" have origins in the world of theater?

One of the meanings of "make it up," which involves inventing or improvising lines, likely has roots in the theater where actors might have had to come up with lines on the spot.

  • Can "make it up" refer to applying makeup?

Yes, "make up" can mean to apply cosmetics. For example, "She took an hour to make up her face."

  • How is "make it up" different from "made up"?

Make it up" is an action, while "made up" can be a past tense version of that action or can refer to something that is fictional or fabricated.

  • Is "make up for lost time" related to this idiom?

Yes, it's a variation. It means to work harder or faster to compensate for time lost.

  • Can "make it up" mean to create a story or lie?

Yes, in some contexts, "make it up" means to fabricate a story or an excuse.

  • Is "make it up" used globally?

While the exact phrase might not be used everywhere, the concept of compensating or inventing something is universal and exists in many languages.

  • Do all English-speaking countries understand "make it up" the same way?

While there might be some regional variations in usage, the core meanings of "make it up" are generally understood across English-speaking countries.

  • Can "make it up" refer to physically constructing something?

Yes, but it's less common. In contexts like "make up the bed," it means to prepare or arrange something.

Final Thoughts About "Make It Up"

The phrase "make it up" is a versatile expression with various meanings that enrich our language. From reconciliation to creativity, it captures the essence of human interactions and ingenuity.

  • "Make it up" can mean compensating for a mistake, inventing something, applying cosmetics, or reconciling after a disagreement.
  • Its origin might be linked to medieval trade practices or the theater.
  • Recognizing the context in which "make it up" is used helps in understanding its specific meaning.

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