The gaming culture has given us a phrase: level up. When gamers successfully hurdle a “level,” they overcome a difficulty phase, taking them to the next stage that requires more effort and skill–they “level up.”

The phrase, however, isn’t found in most dictionaries. Not in Learner’s Dictionary, not in Oxford Advanced American Dictionary, not in Random House Dictionary, not in Collins Dictionary, not in Cambridge Dictionary.

It seems only Macmillan Dictionary (British English) has an entry: “to increase or improve something in order to make it the same as other things of its type.” Example: The government is levelling up the tax on beer and wine. In this sense, level up means to make something on par with another, i.e., on an equal level with another.

Level up, according to the Online Slang Dictionary, is slang. It means “to increase one’s stature in life or performance at a particular task.” This informal phrase is more common in speech and is often avoided by careful users of English.


If you see your friend drive by with a new car, and you say that he’s “leveled up,” he’ll understand you. Just don’t write it down.

Photo credit: Fanlala


2 thoughts on “Level up

  1. A more accepted phrase would be “to advance to the next level” instead of “level-up.”

  2. So true! I prefer your phrasing in most instances, especially when writing articles, essays or business documents.

    For gamers, however, “level up” is already part of their jargon. I like the phrase–it succinctly captures the gamers’ meaning. :)

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