Why is Going to Bed Called “Hitting the Hay” and Where did the Expression Come From?

When going to sea, early sailors had to provide for their own bedding.

This need was catered to by merchants on the docks who, for a shilling, sold the seamen crude canvas sacks stuffed with hay.

When heading off to sleep, a sailor would announce that he was going to “hit the hay.”

Although less crude than those coarse canvases, early North American settlers also used hay to stuff mattresses and pillows, so when going to bed, they too would “hit the hay.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “Why is Going to Bed Called “Hitting the Hay” and Where did the Expression Come From?”

  1. The term actually came from the 1800’s when beds were made from hay. Each bed was constructed from a wooden frame with little knobs in which a knotted rope was tied to. When going to bed, the top portion of the head board would detach thus being used as a form of club to ‘hit the hay.’ Hitting the hay was a way to knock out the bugs, which is also where the term ‘Don’t let the bed bugs bite’ came from. Also, when young couples got married (referred to as ‘trying the knot’) their friends would often untie the knot from the bed so that the persons going to get in bed would fall through. Therefore, the newlyweds family would tell them ‘Don’t forget to tie the knot’ thus dubbing the term, ‘tying the knot.’

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