I have been watching TV series 'East Enders' in BBC. I encountered a sentence 'It all kicked off', but I don't quite understand it. Judging from the scene, it seems this sentence may mean a disaster has just happened. Could someone tell me the exact meaning of this sentence...?

Thank you in advance.


3 Answers 3


To "kick off" means to start. It can be transitive or intransitive.

The phrase originates in sports, like other answers have said.

In contrast to what another answer says, the actions that are started can be either positive or negative.

For example, a big project at work could have a "kick off meeting" where the people working on it are introduced and the goals are discussed.

  • No, in British English (as in the EastEnders example), talking about "it all kicking off" is a slang phrase used specifically to mean trouble starting, usually when a tense situation crosses the line into open conflict (imagine a poor-taste joke sparking a bar brawl). "The project kicked off at the kick-off meeting": the meeting went as planned, everything's fine. "It all kicked off at the kick-off meeting": something bad happened, like two rival managers started shouting at each other and others joined in. Mar 31, 2023 at 9:44

To kick off

Meaning: To start trouble or fight.

Literally: Start the game.


We got out of the pub before it all kicked off and the fists started flying.

Source: here

So this confirms your guess in the scene; a disaster or problem has happened.

  • 1
    Every American football game starts with a "kick-off". In this play, a player on one team literally kicks the ball toward (or past) the other team. Kick-offs tend to be very fast moving plays, with 22 guys each running 20 - 80 yards in a few seconds. During the late 1800s, these plays were very dangerous. There are kick-offs at the beginning of the game, at the beginning of the second half, after every field goal, and on the second play after every touchdown.
    – Jasper
    Oct 15, 2014 at 18:01
  • 1
    Another common idiom with the same meaning is "the shit hit the fan" -- that one's even less intuitive.
    – Crazy Eyes
    Oct 15, 2014 at 20:48

"it all kicked off" is a saying that is mostly used to mean either there was a very heated arguement, or more often that fists started flying, often when other people get involved, then suddenly it goes from zero to total chaos. Its probably fair to say that it is a saying mostly used by the younger population and the working classes. for example " We were outside the club & two birds were argueing, her boyfriend came over and got involved, someone threw a punch at the girl and then suddenly it all kicked off" Could I just add also that the comment by Crazy Eyes Oct 15 (Another common idiom with the same meaning is "the shit hit the fan" -- that one's even less intuitive.) is not quite correct and it would be "the shit hitting the fan" that would be the cause of things "All kicking off" E.G. The shit hit the fan when Sharon admitted to Grant that she had slept with Ali, and that was it, It just all kicked off

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