I came across this sentence.

Hitting all red lights can feel very unlucky.

"Hit" basically means to deal a blow or strike to, but I guess the meaning
of "hit" here is "meet" or "be caught in".

Why do people use this word 'hit' not using more proper word?

  • 2
    "Why do people use this word 'hit' not using more proper word?" - Because proper language isn't very interesting, and people like to be interesting
    – Timo
    Apr 10, 2017 at 12:17
  • I think there's also a brevity to using "hit" -- think of the alternatives. "It can feel unlucky to ... have all the lights turn red when you arrive at them"? "have all lights be red when you reach them"? At least in the US, and I suspect in other cultures as well, people tend to use, or even create, shorter forms of things.
    – rcook
    Apr 10, 2017 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


Yes, you have the right idea of what hit means here. From M-W,

5 : to discover or meet especially by chance • prospectors hitting gold • hit a snowstorm while driving home • hit a run of bad luck

It is an idiomatic usage of the word hit. So in that sense, it is "proper": it makes sense. We can rephrase it with a more formal word, like encounter

Encountering all red lights can feel very unlucky.

but in a causal setting, hit would seem more fitting. Also, hitting the red lights seems more impactful than encountering, for example, if a writer wanted to convey that naunce.

  • Additionally, to hit a red light implies some level of interaction (even if you're not literally hitting it), while an encounter can be more passive. A pedestrian, for example, may encounter a red light for cars, but be entirely unaffected by it - while at the next crossing, he might hit a red light at the pedestrian crossing, preventing him from crossing the road.
    – flith
    Apr 10, 2017 at 9:01
  • 1
    It's not even that idiomatic in this usage considering if you "hit a red light" it stops you when otherwise you would have kept driving through. Apr 10, 2017 at 14:32

In Britain, "hit the lights" often means "go to an area where bars and nightclubs are open and have bright light adverts.

  • That is not the meaning here.
    – user22427
    Jul 5, 2019 at 11:29

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