I read this sentence in a book:

Berezovsky left Russia permanently the next month, taking up exile in England, where he continued to criticize Putin’s regime.


But I can't find the usage of "take up exile" in dictionaries. Google's ngram shows this usage started to appear since the 1930s.


My questions is:

  1. Does this just mean "be exiled"?
  2. What does "take up" mean in this case?
  3. Is this somewhat colloquial?
  4. Is it because this usage is new so it has not been included in dictionaries?
  • 1
    You'll find lots of matches for (somebody) took exile in (some place) in Google Books. Some people might think the usage is a little odd, because when you take something it's usually a voluntary act, but being exiled is usually something done to you (by a hostile government). Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


It's not in dictionaries, because it isn't really an idiom. It is the normal meanings of "take up" (adopt a lifestyle, start doing something, eg I will take up golf) and exile.

You might call it a "colocation": some words that often go together. It suggests that Berezovsky chose to live in England, because conditions in Russia were bad for him, and having made that choice he felt it was not possible to return. In that way it contrasts with "exiled", which would suggest that he was forced to leave by the government of Russia.

I don't find it particularly colloquial. It is perhaps not ultra-formal but it is normal in written and spoken English.

There are plenty of new words that are in dictionaries, (eg "Covid") This is not in the dictionary because you can understand it well enough from its parts.

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