What Does “Hit the Hay” Mean?

Learn the meaning of "hit the hay," a colloquial expression for going to bed or sleeping. Find out its historical origins and cultural references.

Understanding “Hit the Hay”

Definition and Usage

“Hit the hay” is a colloquial expression that means to go to bed or to go to sleep.

This idiom is commonly used in informal settings and is a simple way to express the act of going to bed.

Example sentences that use the idiom “hit the hay” include:

  • “I’m exhausted, I think I’m going to hit the hay early tonight.”
  • “After a long day of work, all I want to do is hit the hay and get some rest.”
  • “It’s getting late, I better hit the hay soon.”

Historical Origins

The origin of the phrase “hit the hay” is not entirely clear.

One theory suggests that it comes from the practice of farm workers sleeping in haystacks in the 19th century.

Supporters of this theory point out that the term “hit the sack” was used around the same time and was likely derived from the same source.

Another theory suggests that “hay” was used in the USA to mean bed since the early 20th century, and the phrase “hit the hay” seems to have originated in the US sports scene.

The Oakland Tribune reported in July 1903 that “Sam Berger, the Olympic heavyweight…was sleepy and he announced that ‘he was going to hit the hay.'”

Cultural References

The phrase “hit the hay” is a common expression in English, and it has been used in various cultural references.

For example, in the Danish children’s book “Pippi Longstocking,” the character Pippi sings a song about hitting the hay.

Additionally, the U.S. Navy has a tradition of playing the song “Anchors Aweigh” at bedtime, which includes the line “stand navy down the field, sails set to the sky.

We’ll never change our course, so Army you steer shy-y-y-y. Roll up the score, Navy, Anchors Aweigh.

Sail Navy down the field and sink the Army, sink the Army Grey.”

Do “Hit the Books” and “Hit the Hay” Have Similar Origins or Meanings?

“Hit the books” and “hit the hay” actually have different origins and meanings.

The phrase “hit the books” refers to studying, while “hit the hay” means to go to bed.

Despite their similar structure, they have distinct connotations and should not be confused for one another when understanding the hit the books phrase.

Variants of the Phrase

“Hit the hay” is a variant of the phrase “hit the sack,” which has a similar meaning.

Other expressions that convey the act of going to bed or going to sleep include “hit the pillow,” “crash,” and “catch some Z’s.”

Synonyms of the idiom “hit the hay” include:

  • Go to bed
  • Go to sleep
  • Hit the sack