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trip someone up
1. Lit. to cause someone to trip; to entangle someone's feet. (Someone includes oneself.) The rope strewn about the deck tripped him up. The lines tripped up the crew.
2. Fig. to cause someone to falter while speaking, thinking, etc. Mary came in while the speaker was talking and the distraction tripped him up. The noise in the audience tripped up the speaker.
trip somebody upalso trip up somebody
to cause someone to make a mistake The lawyer used what he knew about her personality to trip her up in court. I did fine on most of the test, but I tripped up on the last problem.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of trip someone up (to cause someone to fall)
Make or cause someone to make a mistake, as in The other finalist tripped up when he was asked to spell "trireme," or They tripped him up with that difficult question. [Second half of 1700s]
1. To stumble or fall: I tripped up walking upstairs and hurt my ankle.
2. To cause someone to stumble or fall: The soccer player tripped up her opponent with a slide tackle. The broken stair tripped him up.
3. To make a mistake: I would have done better on the test if I hadn't tripped up on the last section.
4. To cause someone to make a mistake: His inability to focus on his work trips him up every time. The unclear phrasing of the question tripped her up.