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1. verb To continue or proceed. In this usage, the phrase can be used as an imperative. I'm sorry for all the interruptions—please, carry on with your story. OK, I understand your vision now—carry on!
2. verb To act wildly or rambunctiously, typically while making a lot of noise (perhaps by crying, yelling, or screeching). Mom rushed into the playroom when she heard the kids carrying on in there. Unfortunately, there's an unhappy cat carrying on outside my open window right now. When you live above a bar, someone is always carrying on when you're trying to sleep.
3. verb To continue to do something over a period of time. How much longer do you think you can carry on such a dangerous lifestyle?
4. verb To persevere. We cannot let ourselves be defeated. We must carry on!
5. verb To continue to do something as it has been done, sometimes for sentimental reasons. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "carry" and "on." My mom's family always got up at midnight on Christmas morning to open presents, and she has carried that tradition on with us. All of my siblings have carried on the family tradition of becoming a doctor, which I guess makes me, the lone artist, quite a rebel.
6. verb To complain about something often or at length. Which dead president is grandpa carrying on about today?
7. verb To have an affair. Did you see the big reveal at the end of last week's episode? The maid is carrying on with the lord of the manor!
8. verb To flirt with someone. Quit carrying on with Ted—he's a married man!
9. verb To bring a small piece of luggage onto an airplane or similar transport by hand (as opposed to luggage that is checked in and stored in the luggage compartment). In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "carry" and "on." I hope they'll let me carry this duffel bag on. I don't want to have to pay for another checked bag! The airline lets you carry on a purse or small bag in addition to a standard piece of carry-on luggage.
10. noun, slang A commotion. In this usage, the phrase is often hyphenated. Primarily heard in UK. I think an unhappy cat is to blame for the carry-on happening outside my window right now.
11. noun A bag, suitcase, or other luggage item that is small enough for one to bring onto an airplane or similar mode of transportation (as opposed to luggage that is checked in and stored in the luggage compartment). In this usage, the phrase is often hyphenated. It's only a weekend trip, so I'm just bringing a carry-on with me.
12. adjective Of or describing such a luggage item. In this usage, the phrase is hyphenated and used before a noun. It's only a weekend trip, so I'm just bringing a carry-on bag with me.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
carry something on
1. to do something over a period of time. (Compare this with carry on (with something.) Do you think you can carry this on for a year? I will carry on this activity for three years if you want.
2. to continue to do something as a tradition. We intend to carry this celebration on as long as the family can gather for the holidays. We will carry on this tradition for decades, in fact.
3. Go to carry something onto something.
carry on (with something)
to continue doing something. (Compare this with carry something on.) Please carry on with your singing. Tom carried on with his boring speech for twenty minutes.
(about someone or something) to make a great fuss over someone or something; to cry (especially for a long time or uncontrollably) about someone or something. (Note the variation in the examples.) Billy, stop carrying on about your tummy ache like that. The child carried on endlessly when his mother scolded him. When the soldier finally came home, his wife cried and carried on for hours. Calm down. There's no need to carry on so.
(to something) to continue on to some place or some time. Please keep reading. Carry on to the next page. Please carry on with your report.
(with someone) to flirt with someone; to have a love affair with someone. It looks like Linda is carrying on with James.
to behave badly or mischievously. The children always carry on when the teacher's out of the room. Stop carrying on and go to sleep!
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Maintain, conduct, as in The villagers carried on a thriving trade, or They carried on a torrid love affair. [c. 1600]
2. Continue or progress, persevere, as in I'm sure you can carry on without me. [Mid-1600s]
3. Behave in an excited, improper, or silly manner, as in They laughed and sang and carried on rather noisily. [Early 1800s]
4. Flirt, engage in an illicit love affair, as in She accused her friend of carrying on with her husband. [Early 1900s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. To continue or resume doing something: After speaking with us briefly, the captain told us to carry on, and we went back to work. Our class is proud to carry on the university's tradition of academic excellence.
2. To maintain something: The cabinetmaker has carried on a thriving business for the past 50 years.
3. To engage in something: Archaeological evidence suggests that the two communities carried on an active trade for centuries.
4. To persevere: Despite protests from our families, we carried on with our plans to marry.
5. To behave in an excited, improper, or silly manner: The bar was full of old friends making toasts and carrying on.
6. carry on about To complain vocally about someone or something: We were all tired of listening to him carrying on about his personal problems.
7. carry on with To flirt with someone: The maids gossiped that the lady of the house had been carrying on with the gardener.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.