ringing off the hook


ringing off the hook


  • being overwhelmed with inquiries, demands, or requests.
  • totally occupied or overloaded by a continuous surge of demands or queries to the point of being unable to handle them.
  • (of a telephone) receiving a large number of calls in quick succession.

Synonyms: inundated; overwhelmed; swamped; besieged.

Example Sentences

  1. As soon as we announced the sale, our phones began ringing off the hook with orders.
  2. Once the news broke, our hotline was ringing off the hook with inquiries.
  3. After the ad aired, our phones rang off the hook with interested customers.
  4. After the press release, the company’s customer service lines were ringing off the hook with questions.
  5. Ever since the store announced its big sale, their phone has been ringing off the hook.

Origin and History

The idiom originates from the time when telephone receivers were placed on a hook, and a constantly ringing phone suggested that it was being picked up and immediately receiving another call without rest.

In other words, telephones commonly had hooks to hang the receiver, which is where the phrase “ringing off the hook” originated. When a phone received a lot of calls in rapid succession, the constant ringing would cause the hook to shake or “ring off.” This visual cue indicated that the phone was constantly in use, unable to rest on the hook between calls. Over time, the expression evolved to metaphorically describe situations where there is a continuous and overwhelming influx of calls, inquiries, or demands.

The Brewer’s Digest, Volume 65, published the idiom’s first printed record in 1937.

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