be caught napping

be caught napping

To have one's inattention (or, sometimes, literal sleep) exploited or capitalized on by someone else. The other team scored because our defense was caught napping.
See also: caught, nap

be caught napping

If someone is caught napping, they suffer a disadvantage by not being prepared for something when it happens. The security services were clearly caught napping and their response was therefore inadequate. European firms have been caught napping. As a result, they barely control one-tenth of the world market. Note: `Napping' means the same as sleeping or dozing.
See also: caught, nap

napping, to be caught/catch

To be surprised off guard, taken unawares. This term began life in the sixteenth century as to be taken napping. “Take Nappynge as Mosse toke his Meare” was the title of a 1569 ballad. The term was included in John Ray’s proverb collection of 1670, in which Ray commented, “Who this Moss was is not very material to know. I suppose some such man might find his mare dead, and taking her to be only asleep, might say, ‘Have I caught you napping?’” Yet Shakespeare and other sixteenth-century writers used the phrase in the modern sense of taking someone unawares; “Nay, I have ta’en you napping, gentle love,” Tranio says to Bianca (The Taming of the Shrew, 4.2).
See also: catch, caught
References in periodicals archive ?
Mr Streeter retorted: "We were caught napping when air strikes began, we will not be caught napping if adequate plans are put in place and implemented.