I found on internet dictionaries that "Stand on (own) feet" means "to be independent, financial self-supporting". But I was wondering if they could mean also "to rise from a seated position". I figure this kind of question isn't likely to be solved by dictionaries.



As OP has already discovered, to stand on one's own (two) feet is an idiomatically established metaphoric usage meaning to be independent (usually, but not necessarily, financially independent).

But although it might seem tautologous to include both stand and feet when used "literally", it's by no means uncommon. My guess is most of almost 20,000 written instances of stand on your feet are either completely literal or nearly so (it's often used to imply Get up and do something to resolve a problem, as opposed to simply Rise from a seated position).

I would tend to draw a distinction between...

1: I've been standing on my feet all day
2: I've been standing all day
...both of which are far less common than...
3: I've been on my feet all day

One significant difference is that #2 often occurs in contexts where I've been standing around waiting for something (by implication, standing in order to be better able to react quickly when it does happen).

But another difference is that although it's relatively less common, #1 strongly implies that I've been standing in the same place all day, as a consequence of which my feet are aching. On the other hand, #3 strongly implies that I've been moving around from place to place a lot - as a consequence of which I might feel "rushed off my feet" (I'm physically and mentally tired all over, it's not just my feet that ache).

Thus #1 would be more likely from, say, a sales assistant who's been standing in one place behind a shop counter serving customers. #3 seems more appropriate for, say, a postman who's been walking all day, delivering the mail.

But #2 has neither of those implications, and it may be useful to note that I've been been standing here all day is actually more common than the simpler version in my numbered link above. And in the vast majority of cases it's not really "literal" at all - there's usually an implicit or explicit reference to either standing around waiting or doing nothing in particular, just standing around idly.

For the literal sense in imperative contexts, you're more likely to hear Get [up] on your feet! from a speaker urging his audience to rise from a seated position (assuming feet are to be referenced at all).


I suppose it could be used that way, but I can't imagine a native English speaker ever doing so.

If it were used literally, it would be tautologous, because if we are standing, we must be on our own feet. So the only circumstance in which anybody is likely to say "stand on my/his/her/your own [two] feet" is when it is being used figuratively.

Notice also that the verb "stand" has two meanings, a static one ("be standing up") and a dynamic one ("rise to a standing position"). The latter is usually "stand up", but it can be just "stand", especially in more formal contexts. "Stand on your own two feet" to me strongly implies the static meaning - perhaps because the primary meaning of "on" is static - whereas your suggested meaning is the dynamic one.

  • 2
    I just want to add: The phrase "Get up; stand on your feet" could be used literally, especially in a chastising way. (I can see a coach saying that to a player, or a parent saying that to a child who is being lazy or disrespectful.) That said, I'm not disagreeing this answer, because I do have trouble imagining myself adding the words "own" or "two" into the expression unless I was using the more figurative meaning of the phrase. – J.R. Mar 21 '17 at 15:00
  • And yet, it's still the first callback in the Rocky Horror Picture Show: "Lips: Michael Rennie was ill/The Day the Earth Stood Still/But he told us where we stand.[On our feet!]" – fectin - free Monica May 22 '17 at 18:47

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