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organization; arrangement.

an act or instance of setting up or getting ready:

The setup of the lights and camera took most of the morning.


the carriage of the body; bearing.


a camera position, as for a particular shot.


everything required for an alcoholic drink except the liquor, as a glass, ice, and soda water, as served to patrons who provide their own liquor.

  1. an undertaking or contest deliberately made easy.
  2. a match or game arranged with an opponent who can be defeated without risk or effort.
  3. an opponent easy to defeat.
  1. a shot or play that results in a puck, shuttlecock, ball, or balls being so positioned as to provide a player with an easy opportunity for a winning shot:

    a playmaker who excels in setups.

  2. the position of such a puck, ball, etc.:

    a setup close to and to the left of the goalkeeper.

  3. the puck, ball, etc., itself:

    The wing banged the setup into the goal.


an arrangement of all the tools, parts, apparatus, etc., necessary for any of various specific jobs or purposes.

the equipment or items necessary for a particular activity or period; kit:

Each student gets a weekly setup of clean blankets, sheets, and towels.


a plan or projected course of action.


a prearranged situation or circumstance, usually created to fool or trap someone; trick; scheme.

Origin of setup

1600-10; noun use of verb phrase set up

Usage note

See login.

  1. station (def 14a).
  2. a surveying instrument precisely positioned for observations from a station.
  3. a gap between the end of a chain or tape being used for a measurement and the point toward which it is laid. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for setup

Contemporary Examples

  • Her first move was to disable the “retweet cartels,” a setup that automatically retweets from preprogrammed users or hashtags.

    The Champagne Tranarchist Who Hijacked Occupy’s Twitter Feed Nina Strochlic February 14, 2014

  • Very rarely was it a whole joke—that happened maybe twice, where a whole one, two, three setup was new.

    Bill Hader Is Sad to Leave ‘Saturday Night Live’ (and Stefon) Behind Kevin Fallon September 4, 2013

  • Well, Electro is part of the Sinister Six, and this movie is really a setup movie.

    Jamie Foxx on ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2,’ Donald Sterling’s Racism, and Bill O’Reilly’s TV Act Marlow Stern April 27, 2014

  • Many devices like Televisions have an option to “update firmware” buried deep in their setup screens.

    Your Refrigerator Is Vulnerable to a Cyberattack Kevin Epstein January 22, 2014

  • When you don't have that in mind when you're going solo, it's an eeny miney mo setup.

    10 Ways to Have a Baby Doree Shafrir September 12, 2009

Historical Examples

  • Instead of pulling a ship to ground, in the setup he'd made, the new fields pulled the ground toward the ship.

    The Pirates of Ersatz Murray Leinster

  • On seeing the fugitives, they setup a shout of surprise and anger.

    City Crimes Greenhorn

  • No matter how foolproof you think your setup is, if you start smuggling you're bound to get caught.

    Smugglers' Reef John Blaine

  • The setup was inspected twice daily by the commander or his executive.

    The Armed Forces Officer U. S. Department of Defense

  • He was red-hot and wanted to tell Sim a few things, but he knew the setup was such that he had to keep his mouth closed.

    A Yankee Flier Over Berlin Al Avery

Word Origin and History for setup


"arrangement," 1890, from verbal phrase set up, attested from c.1200 as "to make ready for use" and from 1950 (in pugilism) as "to bring (someone) to a vulnerable position;" from set (v.) + up (adv.). The verbal phrase also can mean "to establish" (early 15c.) and "put drinks before customers" (1880).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for setup



  1. A person who is easily duped, tricked, etc; patsy, sucker: a set-up, a tout's dream come true (1926+)
  2. A one-day jail sentence (1920s+ Underworld)
  3. glass, ice, soda, etc, to be mixed with liquor: They supplied the set-ups (1930+)
  4. Dishes, utensils, etc, constituting a place setting for a meal (1934+ Lunch counter & restaurant)
  5. Arrangement; organization; situation; mode of operation: except its size and its co-op set-up (1890+)
  6. A house, office, apartment, etc: He has a very comfy setup in a rehabbed brownstone (1940s+)

[most senses apparently fr the setting up of billiard or pool balls to ensure a special or a trick shot]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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