call up : to make a phone call to a person or a place

Call up and make a reservation for eight o'clock.
Can you call up for me and tell them I'm sick?

In these sentences, I don't know what does 'up' mean?

I (non native) understand what 'up' means in these sentences:

I looked up at the sky.
The flag is up.

But when we use 'call up'... What nuance of meaning of the word 'up' is here? Is it possible to omit 'up'? Would it still be the same meaning?

And these sentences do not have 'up':

I'll call again later.
I called the office to tell them I'd be late.

So what is difference between 'call' and 'call up'? What nuance does 'up' take?

  • 2
    "Call up" is a phrasal verb. The Cambridge Dictionary tells us that it as a "phrasal verb with call", defines it as to telephone someone, and classifies it as "American English." (In spite of this, it will be understood by most British English speakers, and may also be used by them.) The preposition "up" is optional in this usage, as long as there is something or someone that might serve as its object. I called up the office. or I called the office. Omit it as you please! Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 5:25
  • A British equivalent is "ring [someone] up" Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


Call someone up meaning to to "call someone on the phone" is an idiomatic expression. "Up" in this specific case is an intensifier, it is used to stress the action you are going to do:

up (adverb):

  • 12) Used as an intensifier of the action of a verb: "typed up a list."



Funny, I never thought about it before. "Up" in those cases doesn't mean much and it could be eliminated. It's less formal to say "call someone up."

"The flag is up!" is a horse racing expression meaning a race has started, and might apply to other sports as well.

"Looked up at the sky" is certainly redundant, since no matter where you are the sky is always up! I'm not sure why, but somehow it sounds more correct to say "look up."

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