Do a double take


I have seen this expression many times but could never understand it.

1- He did a double take.

Please explain it to me.


A double take usually refers to a second (delayed) reaction to something.

When you do a double take, usually you have already reacted to (seen, heard) something without fully noticing or comprehending all the details. Often it’s in connection with something normal but with some sort of unexpected aspect. Then there is a second reaction (the double take) when the detail of what you’ve just seen or heard finally becomes clear in your mind and you may find yourself having to e.g. look again just to make sure that what you think you saw is what is really there.


I’ve always thought doing a double take meant looking at something once without reacting, then realizing what you have seen and then looking again in surprise. In my world a double take is not just any kind of reaction, but only looking at something.

I don’t know this for certain however I believe the history of how this phrase began starts in the early days of the movie industry when a director would say “Let’s do a double take”

For example they say, “Take 2, take 64 etc…” referring to a double take probably stems back to the early early days of film making in America where a double take meant doing a scene all over again which back then was quite cumbersome.

A take is a scene.

Hence the phrase today “Do a double take” which means to repeat the action you just did. A repeated action because a take was a scene which involved yes you guessed it “acting”. ahahah…that’s the best explanation I can think of, however I have no supporting references. It means I could be wrong but it’s a plausible explanation.