What does the idiom "cut sb to the quick" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does cut sb to the quick mean? In what situations is cut sb to the quick used?

Meaning of "cut sb to the quick"


The idiom “cut sb to the quick” is used to describe someone’s feelings being deeply and unexpectedly hurt by a comment or action. This phrase is used to emphasize how emotional or physical pain was caused. The saying implies that the person or comment went beyond the emotional skin that is often associated with pain, and cut all the way to the raw nerve beneath the surface.


The origin of the term “cut sb to the quick” is unclear. It is thought that the phrase has been used in various forms since at least the 16th century. The phrase can be traced back to the Middle English phrase “kutte to the quicke”, which means to be pierced or stabbed in the heart. This phrase was often used figuratively to describe intense feeling such as sorrow or anger. The phrase has become more commonly used in the modern era, particularly in the United States.


The phrase “cut sb to the quick” is typically used to express the intense feeling of being deeply hurt by someone or something. It is often used in a figurative sense to express emotional pain. This phrase can be used in a variety of contexts, including in discussion of personal relationships, professional relationships or when discussing a particularly upsetting experience. It is also used to describe how one’s feelings were unexpectedly hurt by a comment or action.

Example Sentences

  • His comment cut me to the quick.
  • Her words cut him to the quick and he was left speechless.
  • His betrayal cut me to the quick and shattered my trust.
  • She felt her heart cut to the quick by his cold words.

The meanings of the words in the "cut sb to the quick" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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