what's the meaning of "take off" in this context:

"She started ballet when she was young. She took off. Then progressively she started other types of dances."

Does it mean, she took a break or does it mean she became successful?

Thank you.

  • 2
    The second: she showed good achievements. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 9:59
  • AHDEL (under what they call phrasal verbs. Which sense do you think applies here? Remember it's an intransitive usage. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 10:00
  • @EdwinAshworth "AHDEL"? I can't find any non-pejorative meaning. Am I missing something simple?
    – Phil M Jones
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 10:49
  • 1
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. It occupies the 'first 3.5 pages' of the hyperlink given. take off 6c. To achieve success or popularity: a new movie that really took off. Collins also list this (as sense 6) for 'take off' below AHDEL. Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 11:05
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth I hear ya. I just thought you might want to pick up the reputation points. I would have posted a similar answer to your comment, but personally I don't feel right posting an answer someone's already given in a comment. And I'll be keeping an eye out for puns from you and Erik going forward. Cheers.
    – pyobum
    Commented Jan 24, 2015 at 10:52

2 Answers 2


In this context, it means she "took off like a rocket" -- she learned ballet quickly and became good at it quickly.

If she spent time not-dancing, it would be, "She took a break" explicitly.

In some contexts, "took off" could mean "ran away," but this one is pretty clear that it's referring to taking off like a rocket. (Or a plane, or something else that goes quickly into the air.)

  • (+1) However 'like a rocket' is perhaps extreme. I would rather say this is a milder metaphor for flight. A young bird leaves the nest and flies for the first time. It soon becomes an expert aviator. Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 9:43

She started ballet when she was young. She took off.

Here in this sentence took off means that she became successful and popular.

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