napping, to be caught/catch

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be caught napping

1. Literally, to be discovered sleeping when one is not supposed to be. The security guard was caught napping at his post, so they fired him.
2. By extension, to have one's inattention exploited or capitalized on by someone else. The other team scored because our defensive tackle was caught napping. This is a highly competitive industry. You can't be caught napping, or you'll fall behind.
See also: caught, nap

catch (one) napping

1. Literally, to discover that one is sleeping when one is not supposed to be. A: "Why was Bill fired?" B: "I heard they caught him napping at his at his desk."
2. By extension, to exploit or capitalize on one's inattention. We were able to sneak into the building because we caught the security guard napping. I scored a goal after I caught their defenseman napping.
See also: catch, nap
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

catch someone napping

 and catch someone off balance; catch someone up short
to come upon someone who is unprepared; to surprise someone. (See also asleep at the switch.) The enemy soldiers caught our army napping. The thieves caught the security guard napping. I didn't expect you so soon. You caught me off balance. The teacher asked a trick question and caught me up short. The robbers caught Ann off balance and stole her purse.
See also: catch, nap
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

catch napping

Surprise, take unawares. This term is often used in the passive, as in The United States was really caught napping the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It originated in the mid-1500s as to be taken napping. Also see under off guard.
See also: catch, nap
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.

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
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Stratford were caught napping at the start of the second period, going behind on 49 minutes as Hicks failed to clear and from Nicky Harrison's mishit shot the unmarked Lee Bullimore made no mistake from close in.
The hosts were caught napping as Old Pens ran in a converted consolation try.
Eddie Smith converted Asipito's try made by Connett's lineout steal and put over two penalties after Dalrymple slotted his second penalty to leave DK 18-13 ahead until they caught napping at the death by a quickly taken lineout from which McCallum got his second try and Dalrymple kicked the winning conversion.
caught napping Fans' shot of Niall, inset, asleep on plane
With four minutes left, the home defence were caught napping and Jim Davidson volleyed home from six yards.
Matthews bagged his first on 61 minutes and made the game safe just two minutes later from a superb Ryan Hall through ball, as the Nostell defence was caught napping once again.
Bookies caught napping Bill Turner maintained his good recent form and notched his fifth winner from his last 15 runners when Caught Napping kept on well to win the 5f maiden under useful claimer Darren Egan.
The Republic of Ireland centre-back was caught napping on 17 minutes by Joe Mason who tucked in the opener.
BATH were also caught napping when ULSTER snatched a 22-18 win despite having trailed by 12 points.
The scanners, which could have thwarted the attack by the Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, are already in use in countries, including America and Germany, and yesterday the Netherlands and Nigeria announced they would follow suit.ut the Government said it had "no immediate plans" to deploy them, leading to accusations that ministers had been "caught napping".
Colchester forced three corners without reward before the home defence was caught napping for O'Toole to score.
TIBS took the lead when the ball was sent down the right flank and Thornaby's defence were caught napping, which allowed a cross into the box for TIBS to make it 1-0.
But their defence was caught napping in the second minute of added time when Dean Crowe gave Witton the lead with a simple tap-in.
LIVERPOOL FC's footballing stars have been caught napping.
The Nomads defence was caught napping as the Rhyl striker found himself unmarked at a free-kick and fired home.