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On the ball

“On the ball” is a commonly used idiom that describes someone or something that is performing well.

If someone is “on the ball”, they are focused and working as hard as they can. They are likely getting everything done at the exact right time. The idiom can be used in a wide variety of contexts and in anyone’s company. It is easily used in professional and casual conversations. 

On the ball meaning

Meaning of “On the ball”

The idiom “on the ball” is used to describe someone or something that’s performing exactly as it should be.

If someone is working hard and getting everything done that they need to do, then they could be described as “on the ball.” For instance, a family member who always remembers birthdays and buys presents at exactly the right time could be described as “on the ball.” The phrase is quite common. This means that most people in everyday conversations, as well as within writing, are going to understand what it means. 


“On the ball” is believed to have originated in the early 20th century in the United States. It was originally connected to baseball and the way a pitcher treated the ball during the game. Word Reference describes the practice as to “have” or “be putting” a lot “on the ball.” They did what they could in order to manipulate the batters, making them believe one thing or another in regard to which pitch was going to be thrown. 

When To Use “On the ball”

It’s possible to use “on the ball” in a wide variety of situations. The phrase is easily used among friends, family members, and close colleagues. It can also be used in more progressional contexts due to its generally direct and uncontroversial tone. It is unlikely to offend anyone or make the speaker seem unprofessional. 

The phrase can be used to encourage or chastise someone. It might also be used as a general comment about how good or bad something is. 

For example, one person might use it when they’re describing how hard they worked during the workday. If they were very focused and got everything done, they needed to do. They could say they were “on the ball.” It’s a phrase that’s usually associated with someone paying close attention to what they’re doing and working hard. If one person gets everything done, they need to on time. They are definitely “on the ball.”

Example Sentences

  • You really have to be on the ball when you got to that school. 
  • She worked so hard this week. She was really on the ball
  • He wasn’t on the ball. He didn’t really care how much he got done

Why Do Writers Use “On the ball?” 

Writers use the idiom in many different situations. It could be used in a dialogue between two characters or within a narrator’s description of an event or broader scene. For example, a narrator might comment, in a way only the reader can understand, that they wish they’d been, or someone else was very much, “on the ball.” 

“On the ball” is a very commonly heard idiom. This means that many readers, if not all readers, are going to know precisely what it means. It can also help a writer make their work feel more realistic. It’s easier to connect to a character if they use phrases and words that the reader also uses. So, if readers come across a phrase they used in their everyday life, they’re more likely to relate to the dialogue and find it believable. But, at the same time, it’s also possible that idioms, and proverbs, get overused and feel cliché to readers. This may result in readers pulling away from the text. 


What is the purpose of the phrase “on the ball?” 

The purpose is to describe how on point, on task, or how closely someone is paying attention. If someone is on the ball, then they are ready for anything to happen and are taking care of everything they need to. 

Where did “on the ball” come from? 

The phrase “on the ball” came from the United States. It was first used in relation to the game of baseball and the ways commentators described pitchers treating the ball. 

Is “on the ball” an idiom? 

Yes, “on the ball” is an idiom. This means that the phrase does not convey its meaning. One has to have experience with the idiom in context to know what it means. 

How to use “on the ball” in a sentence? 

One might say, “wow, you are really on the ball today,” or “she was on the ball at work today.” Another alternative example is, “if you were more on the ball during the workday, you’d get more done.” 

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