Keep your pecker up


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Keep your pecker up'?

Remain cheerful – keep your head held high.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Keep your pecker up'?

Whilst pecker is a word now associated with American slang the usage here is the English pecker, that is, nose or mouth, as opposed to the American, that is, penis. The phrase is equivalent to keep your chin up.

The pecker is generally thought of as the mouth, although the earliest known use of the word in this phrase clearly alludes to the nose. The imagery is of a bird that pecks for food. That citation is from The Times, September 1845:

“Mr. King… misstated the fact in saying that he had put a piece of lighted paper to the master’s nose while asleep in that house; it was his hot pipe that he applied to the sleeper’s nostrils, at the same time crying: Come, old chap, keep your pecker up.”

Trend of keep your pecker up in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.