catch (one) napping

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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.

catch someone napping

(of an action or event) find someone off guard and unprepared to respond. informal
See also: catch, nap, someone
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

catch somebody ˈnapping

(informal) find somebody not prepared or not paying attention, and perhaps gain an advantage over them as a result: Chelsea’s defence was caught napping in the final moments of the game when Jones scored his second goal for Liverpool.
Nap means ‘sleep’, usually for a short time and especially during the day.
See also: catch, nap, somebody
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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 ?
'Well caught them napping in the 12th minute when Jake Hastie burst into the box and his strike deflected in off McClean.
The win had seemed easy for Galaxy who were on song for a long time until Tendai Nyamadzawo caught them napping and slammed home the equaliser to make it 3-3 on aggregate in the referee's added time and subsequently forcing the game to be decided in extra time.
"We caught them napping quite a lot which is going to be a big factor of the new Coventry.
Warwick converted and Munster seemed to be looking good as half-time approached but Priestland caught them napping and his break enabled to Edwards to go over in first-half injury time.
After a hard fought first half, Park End pressed forward after the break but Rugby Club caught them napping as Stuart Oswald raced clear to score.
Worse was to follow for the home side as another ball down the middle caught them napping and although Dolan blocked the first shot, he was helpless as Chris McDonald pounced on the rebound.
A well-worked free-kick caught them napping as powerful mid-fielder Pablo Mills nodded past keeper Glyn Garner, who might have done better.
Everton did not heed this warning and Boro caught them napping at the back on 38 minutes.
He caught them napping at dummy half and took (Anthony) Minichiello on the outside so it's great to have a player who can do things like that in your team.
It didn't make it easy for Liverpool but eventually a sneaky little ball from Graeme Souness caught them napping and Kenny Dalglish raced on to it and chipped the keeper.
The Nuns struck back with a 69th minute try by replacement winger Jonty Carter and Peacock's penalty ten minutes later extended their lead to 37-7 before Connelly caught them napping with his second try for West Hartlepool in the last minute.
BELPER were masterful in their 4-1 dismissal of West Bridgford to further enhance their tight grip on the DTZ Premier Division table, despite a slow start which caught them napping.
Another long throw by Legg somehow caught them napping and when the ball reached Scott Young the central defender hit a cracking drive that gave Bankole no chance.
Unbeaten since Middlesbrough caught them napping in a 3-2 home loss six days before Christmas, United are confident of eliminating Inter and going into the semis.
He said: "In 1994 we caught them napping but they'll be looking for revenge now."