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1. To become tighter. I could see her shoulders tighten up when I suggested having my mother stay with us for a while. This valve has been tightening up from rust accumulating over the years.
2. To cause something to become tighter. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." Make sure you regularly tighten everything up on your bike—it all gets loose over time. I tightened up my grip on my purse as I passed through the dark alley.
3. To become more strict or restrictive. Security has tightened up in airports around the world in response to the attacks. Once fairly lax in its admission policy, the police force has tightened up considerably in recent years.
4. To cause something to become more strict or restrictive. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." As stories of ransomware become more common, we're continuing to tighten up our cyber-security software suite for business customers. Our country will never reach its full potential until we tighten our borders up against unlawful immigration.
5. To become disciplined, well organized, and efficient. Our department has really tightened up in the last year ever since the new boss took over. Everyone in this team needs to tighten up if we want to have any shot of making it to the playoffs this year!
6. To cause someone or something become disciplined, well organized, and efficient. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "tighten" and "up." The new CEO has made it his mission to tighten up the company and return it to a profit within this fiscal year. The team has a lot of raw talent and potential, but you'll need to really tighten them up if they're going to find any consistent success.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
tighten something up
to make something tighter. Tighten your seat belt up. It looks loose. Can you tighten up all the bolts?
1. Lit. [for something] to get tighter. The door hinges began to tighten up, making the door hard to open and close. His grip around the handle tightened up and he refused to let go.
2. Fig. [for someone or a group] to become miserly. The government tightened up and our budget was slashed. We almost went out of business when we couldn't get credit because the bank tightened up.
3. Fig. [for someone or something] to become more restrictive. The boss is tightening up on new hiring. There are more rules and the people who enforce them are tightening up.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. To make something tight or tighter: I pulled on the ends of the string to tighten up the knot. The mechanic tightened the bolts up with a rachet. This exercise will tighten up your stomach muscles. Tighten your belt up so your pants don't fall down.
2. To become tight or tighter: I knew I had a fish when the line suddenly tightened up. After the run, I walked around the track so my muscles wouldn't tighten up. I tightened up on the handlebars as I went over the bump.
3. To make something more strict or secure: The government is trying to tighten up the tax code. The country has tightened its borders up to prevent drug smuggling.
4. To become more strict or secure: Airline security has tightened up, and now all luggage must be scanned.
5. To make something more disciplined: The company is tightening up their management in an effort to reduce wasteful spending. The author has tightened the story up by deleting irrelevant details.
6. To become more disciplined: The team has tightened up under the leadership of the new coach.
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.