I usually feel I've got a good grasp of English, but this stomped me... I need a word/phrase for the action of a person laying (stretched out) on his back on a bed, and who abruptly rise to a sitting position - ie. he rises his back/torso, while his legs remains outstretched on the bed.

He goes from this:

L__ __O

To this:

L__ |

Personally I'd use something like "He shot off the bed" - but that doesn't convey that his legs are still in the bed and only his back is off it... besides, it sort of suggests that he's hovering over the bed... or that he's got out of the bed (and is standing on the floor. In any case, it's easy to confuse with "He shot out of the bed".

"He abruptly sat up in bed" could perhaps work, but could it be interpreted as sitting on the bed - as if it was a chair - with feet on the floor? "He abruptly rose up in bed" could perhaps work, but could be easily be misunderstood as "rose from"...

So, are there any word/phrase specifically for this - or a way to make one of my suggestions clearer?

  • 2
    I think "He abruptly sat up in bed." is fine. If his feet were off the bed, I would use ""He abruptly sat up on the edge of the bed." BTW, this stumped you.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 1:34
  • 1
    Yeah, to a native speaker, "sat up in bed" is only going to imply "came to a sitting position, while still in the bed", and not "sat on the edge of the bed."
    – stangdon
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


In English, as luck would have it, there is a term which is typically used to describe exactly what you specify:

Bolt upright.

The Cambridge Dictionary has:

vertical and extremely straight:
 She woke up and sat bolt upright in bed, terrified by her dream.

In fact, bolt upright is seldom used without being followed by in bed.

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