Having looked up the prasal verb "to check up" in all available dictionaries I have found its being used in the sense of "to make certain about something by checking it, verify or to comport with" mainly with an object (direct: check the figures up or prepositional: check up with the data, check up on smb/smth).

But there were a pair of examples of the verb in which, as I may be guessing, it meant something like "to stop": "They had such headway that they were nearly to the king before they could check up; then, frantic with rage, they stood up their horses on their hind hoofs and...(after Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court).

Is "to check up" used in the meaning of "to stop" or I just got it wrong?

And are there any other rare senses in which this phrasal verb may be found used whithout an object (as an intransitive verb)? (I, for example, couldn't figure out its meaning herein: "Also, if the ball goes out of bounds players must check up").

1 Answer 1


It certainly does appear that Mark Twain used the phrase in that sense. I don't think anybody would use it that way today, and without context to make it clear, I don't think most people would even understand it.

It's archaic.

The meaning of check which it is built on - to stop something - is not very common today, though it is still found. But in ordinary use it has been almost completely overtaken by the meaning "ascertain whether something is right".

  • In my circles, you can check your pace [a little] when out jogging. It means to deliberately slow down (by a controlled amount). Otherwise, I agree with your answer, Colin!
    – Jaime
    Feb 14 at 20:37
  • Brits still use 'check' in certain situations, e.g. to make someone stop speaking, e.g. I started to explain to Joe who Napoleon was, but he checked me and said that he had a degree in European history. Feb 14 at 20:37
  • I don't recognise Jaime's use (I would understand it, but it's unfamiliar). Equally, I would only expect Michael's use in very literary circles.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 14 at 20:54
  • @Colin Fine Could you render the sentense "Also, if the ball goes out of bounds players must check up" for me? Is it also that they must stop?
    – Eugene
    Feb 14 at 21:02
  • I have no idea what that sentence means they have to do, @Eugene.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 14 at 22:25

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