Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia.
Like this video? Subscribe to our free daily email and get a new idiom video every day!
get at (someone or something)
1. To physically reach someone or something. Hand me the broom so I can get at that spider on the ceiling. I'll need a stool to be able to get at that box on the top shelf.
2. To allude to or suggest a particular point. Often used in constructions in which a noun or pronoun does not follow "at." A: "Did you get attacked by a lawnmower today or something?" B: "What are you getting at? Are you making fun of my hair?" I think what the author is getting is that the pressures of society can cause even upstanding citizens to commit terrible crimes.
3. To irk or annoy someone. That loud music has started getting at me. Can you please turn it down?
4. To recognize or realize something. It's taken some time, but I think we've finally gotten at a solution that will work.
5. To confront someone, typically someone inaccessible, in order to influence them illegally, such as through bribery or threats. Once his thugs get at the jurors, there's no hope for a fair trial.
6. To start to work on something. If you don't get at this project early, you'll be up all night finishing it.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
get at (someone or an animal)
Fig. to attack or strike someone or an animal. The cat jumped over the wall to get at the mouse. Ok, you guys. There he is. Get at him!
get at someone
Fig. to find a way to irritate someone; to manage to wound someone, physically or emotionally. (See also get at someone or an animal.) Mr. Smith found a way to get at his wife. John kept trying to get at his teacher.
get at something
1. Fig. to explain or understand something. We spent a long time trying to get at the answer. I can't understand what you're trying to get at.
2. Fig. begin doing something. (See also Have at it!) I won't be able to get at it until the weekend. I'll get at it first thing in the morning.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Touch, reach successfully, as in Mom hid the peanut butter so we couldn't get at it. [Late 1700s]
2. Try to make understandable; hint at or suggest. For example, I think I see what you're getting at. [Late 1800s]
3. Discover, learn, ascertain, as in We must get at the facts of the case. [Late 1700s]
4. Bribe or influence by improper or illegal means, as in He got at the judge, and the charges were dismissed. [Colloquial; mid-1800s]
5. Start on, begin work on, attend to, as in "Get at your canvassing early, and drive it with all your might" (Mark Twain, letter to his publishers, 1884). [Colloquial; late 1800s]
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 reach something or someone: The cat hid where we couldn't get at it.
2. To annoy or bother someone: The noise from the construction site is really getting at me.
3. To express or try to express something; hint at something: The way you've phrased this doesn't get at the main point. I don't know what you're getting at.
4. To discover or understand something: We finally got at the cause of the problem.
5. Slang To bribe or influence by improper or illegal means: He got at the judge, and the charges were dismissed.
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.