This is a passage from a novel:

He smiled as he made up her plate. Stir-fry. Salmon. Kale. Other green things. He crushed a handful of cashews in his fist and sprinkled them on top, then set the plate in front of her.

her is the wife.

What does "made up" mean in the passage?


I looked up make up on OALD, and my guess is that number 2 of the definitions fits most appropriately to the context?

  1. to put something together from several different things
  • You might get some downvotes or close votes because you've not indicated any effort to look this up (or, if you did, you haven't shown what you found). I recommend doing some dictionary work first, before you ask on ELL. If you have done that already, then you should edit the question, and add a sentence or two explaining why your search proved fruitless. The community will appreciate that information. It wouldn't hurt to specify what novel this came from, too. – J.R. Sep 25 '15 at 22:38

Your initial intuition is correct. The meaning of made up can be intuited from the context. More specifically, it simply seems to have the meaning of make, just as some people say clean while others say clean up.

It is a bit old-fashioned, so far as I can tell. Here is an instance from a 19th-century trial :

It has been stated by your lordship, that the first question at the trial was, whether it was the duty of the accountant at the payoffice, to make up the ex-paymaster's accounts.

Note that the usage here is pretty similar: the phrase implies that the accounts are being created, not falsified. Interestingly, your example comes from a work published quite recently. I suppose it might still be used more frequently in certain styles of English.

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