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Hold Up vs. Hold On: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 11, 2023
Hold Up refers to delay or rob; a pause caused by an obstacle. Hold On refers to wait or physically grip; to maintain a connection.

Key Differences

Hold up can mean to delay something or someone, often due to an unforeseen obstacle. For instance, traffic can hold up a person's commute. Hold on, in contrast, primarily means to wait or pause, usually without the implication of an obstacle, as in asking someone to hold on a moment while you grab something.
In a different context, hold up can also mean to rob, especially in a dramatic or forceful manner, like in a bank hold-up. Hold on, alternatively, can refer to gripping something tightly or maintaining a connection, such as holding on to a railing for support.
Hold up is often used to evaluate or assess something, as in holding up a plan for scrutiny. Conversely, hold on is used to indicate maintaining a position or opinion, like holding on to one's beliefs despite challenges.
In casual speech, hold up can be used to express disbelief or surprise, as in questioning the validity of something. Hold on, however, is frequently used to ask someone to pause or wait briefly, especially in conversation.
Hold up can also imply the act of supporting or bearing weight, like a beam holding up a structure. Hold on has the connotation of enduring or persisting, as in holding on through difficult times.

Comparison Chart

Primary Meaning

To delay, rob, or support
To wait, grip tightly, or maintain connection

Usage in Speech

Expressing delay, robbery, or disbelief
Indicating waiting, gripping, or persistence

Contextual Application

Obstacles, robberies, assessments
Waiting, physical support, endurance

Emotional Connotation

Frustration (delays), aggression (robbery)
Patience (waiting), determination (enduring)

Example in Conversation

"The project was held up by funding issues."
"Hold on, I'll check the schedule."

Hold Up and Hold On Definitions

Hold Up

To delay due to an obstacle.
Traffic held up my arrival.

Hold On

To wait or pause.
Hold on, I'll be right there.

Hold Up

To rob or conduct a heist.
The bank was held up by masked robbers.

Hold On

To persist through difficulty.
Hold on through the tough times.

Hold Up

To pause for assessment or disbelief.
Hold up, are you serious about moving abroad?

Hold On

To maintain a connection.
Hold on to your dreams despite challenges.

Hold Up

To support or bear weight.
The pillars hold up the roof.

Hold On

To grip something firmly.
Hold on to the handrail while climbing.

Hold Up

To withstand scrutiny or examination.
His alibi doesn't hold up under questioning.

Hold On

To keep a position or stance.
She held on to her opinion despite opposition.

Hold Up

(colloquial) A delay or wait.
What is the hold-up?

Hold Up

A robbery at gunpoint.
This is a hold-up! Give us all your money.

Hold Up

(bridge) The holding back of a card that could win a trick in order to use it later.

Hold Up

(in the plural) Women's stockings designed to be worn without suspenders.

Hold Up

(military) The inventory of nuclear material within a separation plant.


Does "hold on" imply physical gripping?

It can mean physically gripping something for support.

What does "hold up" mean in a robbery?

It refers to a robbery, typically involving threats.

What's a common use of "hold up" in construction?

Referring to something supporting or bearing weight.

Is "hold on" used in motivational contexts?

Yes, to encourage persistence or maintaining a connection.

How do delays and "hold up" relate?

"Hold up" often signifies something is causing a delay.

Is "hold on" used in safety instructions?

Often, especially to instruct gripping for safety.

How is "hold on" used in a conversation?

As a request for someone to wait or pause.

Can "hold up" mean a delay?

Yes, it often refers to a delay caused by an obstacle.

Can "hold on" indicate a temporary pause?

Yes, it's frequently used to ask for a brief wait.

What does it mean to "hold up" a plan?

To examine or assess the plan for validity.

Is "hold on" related to maintaining beliefs?

It can mean maintaining a stance or belief.

Does "hold up" have a legal context?

It can refer to the validity of an argument in law.

Can "hold up" be a casual expression of disbelief?

Yes, it's used informally to express surprise or disbelief.

What's a metaphorical use of "hold up"?

Referring to something supporting an argument or idea.

How is "hold on" used in emergency situations?

As a directive to maintain one's position or grip for safety.

Does "hold on" imply endurance?

It can imply enduring or persisting through challenges.

What's an example of "hold up" in disbelief?

Saying "hold up" when hearing surprising news.

Can "hold on" be encouragement?

Yes, often used to encourage staying strong.

How is "hold on" used in telecommunication?

To ask a caller to wait momentarily.

Can "hold up" refer to reliability?

Yes, as in something holding up over time.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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