English Idiom – Wake up and smell the coffee.

Meaning – To become aware of what’s really happening or what needs to be done. To recognize a situation as it truly is, particularly if it’s unpleasant or inconvenient. It’s a phrase commonly used when someone is not fully aware of a situation or is in denial about something, and needs to snap out of it and take action.

The idiom wake up and smell the coffee is thought to have originated in the United States in the 20th century, and refers to the idea that if someone is sleepy or groggy in the morning, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee will wake them up and help them become more alert. However, the phrase has since taken on a metaphorical meaning that extends beyond the literal smell of coffee.

The slang expression cup of joe can be used to describe a cup of coffee.


When could you use this idiom?

  • When someone is not facing reality and in denial about a situation, or is refusing to accept the truth of a matter.
  • If someone is procrastinating or hesitating to take action, you can use this idiom to motivate them to take decisive steps towards their goals.
  • When someone needs to be more aware of their surroundings or is not paying attention to important details, you can use this idiom to encourage them to be more alert and observant.


  • “You keep making the same mistakes over and over. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee and start doing things differently.”

In The News:

“Wake up and smell the coffee…” Jaishankar’s take on Bilawal Bhutto on abrogation of Article 370 in J&K


  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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