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"A turn-up for the books" – Phrase of the week

The Bell Team
Written by the Bell Team

Find out about the phrase ‘A turn-up for the books’, its history and why people use it.


“A turn-up for the books”


  • Winning the first prize in the school’s drawing competition was a turn-up for the books.

  • Seeing Justin Bieber in the shopping centre was a turn-up for the books.


A turn-up for the books is used to mean a surprising or an unexpected event, often a piece of good fortune.


It is used quite widely in spoken and written English in a social context.

That’s interesting!

The expression ‘turn-up’ comes from cribbage, an old card game where cards were turned up by chance, with top cards winning points for a team. It was also used by Victorian bookmakers, who recorded horse-racing bets in a notebook. If the race was won by an unbacked horse, the bookmaker had a ‘turn-up’, meaning he could keep all the wagered money for himself.

Idioms to express luck and good fortune

  • A stroke of luck

  • To strike (it) lucky

  • Beginner’s luck

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The Bell Team
Written by the Bell Team,
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