Tim Bowen is on a high after considering the many uses of this lofty word.
The word high functions most commonly as an adjective but it can also be used as an adverb and, occasionally, as a noun.
As an adjective, its main meanings are ‘large in size or amount’, ‘very good or excellent’ (e.g. a high standard) and ‘important’ (e.g. a high priority). Followed by on, it can also mean ‘affected by a drug that makes the user feel happy, excited or relaxed’, as in ‘He was high on cocaine’ or ‘very happy or excited’, as in ‘The players were high on the emotion of it all’. Used only before a noun, high can also mean ‘the greatest, the strongest or the most extreme example of something’, as in high drama, high fashion, high summer and high finance.
As an adverb high can be used with a range of verbs, such as reach, fly, stretch and rise. It is also used with the verb run in the expression emotions are/were running high, meaning that people are or were very angry or emotional about something.
As a noun, high means a period or situation in which something reaches its highest level, as in ‘Temperatures today are expected to reach a high of 37 degrees’ and ‘Attendances at football matches are at an all-time high’.
High can also mean a feeling of great happiness or excitement. It is often used in the plural in this sense, as in ‘They’ve experienced both the highs and lows of married life’ and in the phrase on a high, as in ‘The kids are on a high for days when the exams are over’.
It is also possible to get a high from drugs or alcohol, as in ‘Those painkillers gave me an amazing high’.