Is there any difference in meaning between take up a challenge and take on a challenge? For example:

I am taking up the challenge of learning a new language.

I am taking on the challenge of learning a new language.

If there is not difference whatsoever, which one do you hear the most?

  • 3
    This isn't really enough to be an answer, but in my experience they hold slightly different connotations. "taking on a challenge" implies accepting a challenge someone else gave you, while "taking up a challenge" implies no one challenged you to do it other than yourself.
    – Hearth
    Mar 27, 2020 at 20:29
  • The fact that I thought those two meanings were the other way around maybe suggests that there isn't much difference. You can take up something laid before you, whereas you take on an opponent, adversary or task. Mar 27, 2020 at 21:05

1 Answer 1


One typical online dictionary (Dictionary.com) includes as definitions for 'take on', to accept as a challenge) and for 'take up', to accept, as an offer or challenge , so there's not a lot of difference there.

The first possible difference, as Hearth said in a comment, is that 'take on' implies that the challenge was given to you by someone, while 'take up' implies that you have accepted it (or 'taken it on' (

I would add a second possible difference, possibly related to Hearth's suggestion, and that 'take on' sounds (to me, at least) more urgent than 'take up'.

Intriguingly, Google Ngram Viewer shows that 'take/taking/taken on a challenge' are more common than 'take/taking/taken up a challenge', but 'takes/took up a challenge' are more common than 'takes/took on a challenge'. At the same time, 'take/takes/taking/took/taken up the challenge' are all more common than 'take/takes/taking/took/taken on the challenge'. So actual usage is mixed.

  • This is a pretty good answer. The only thing I'd add is that often "take on" has more of a feeling of confrontation or struggle ("I may or may not succeed, but I will give my best effort"), whereas "take up" has a bit more of a feeling of confidence ("It will be a challenge, but I'm confident I can make it work").
    – Foogod
    Mar 28, 2020 at 22:21

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