What does “ball is in your court” mean?

Learn the origins, meaning, and usage of the popular idiom 'ball is in your court'. Discover synonyms and examples of how to use it in everyday conversations.

Understanding the Idiom

The idiom “ball is in your court” is a popular saying used to describe a situation where someone has the responsibility to take action or make a decision.

It is often used in a context where someone has the power to influence the outcome of a situation.

Origins and History

The expression originated in America in the early 19th century and is derived from the sport of tennis.

When the ball bounces in your court during a game of tennis, you must take action and hit it to keep the game going.

The expression the ball is in your court, expressed in a figurative sense, came into use in the 1960s.

Meaning and Usage

The idiom “ball is in your court” is used to indicate that the responsibility for taking action or making a decision lies with the person being addressed.

For example, if someone asks another person out on a date and the other person says “the ball is in your court”, it means that the person who asked must now take the next step and plan the date.

Here are three example sentences that use the idiom:

  • “I’ve given you all the information you need to make a decision. Now the ball is in your court.”
  • “I’ve done my part of the project. The ball is in your court to finish it.”
  • “I’ve apologized for my mistake. The ball is in your court to forgive me.”

Comparative Idioms

Here are three synonyms of the idiom “ball is in your court”:

  • The onus is on you
  • The responsibility is yours
  • It’s up to you

Overall, the idiom “ball is in your court” is a useful expression that can be used in a variety of situations where someone has the power to influence the outcome of a situation.