What does the idiom "give sb the slip" mean?

The phrase give sb the slip is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of give sb the slip.

Meaning of "give sb the slip"


The idiomatic phrase ‘give someone the slip’ has the literal meaning of to slip away or escape someone. It is commonly used to explain that someone manages to escape the attention of someone else, managing to avoid capture or surveillance, or to leave a place suddenly, without being seen.


The phrase is thought to have come from the phrase ‘get the slip on’, which was used in the 1500’s to mean to gain an advantage over someone else. This phrase is thought to be derived from the phrase ‘slip the cable’, which is a nautical phrase for to get a ship untied from the dock and to drift away. The phrase ‘give someone the slip’ first appeared in the early 1800’s and has since been popularized and adopted by writers, poets, and everyday speakers.


The phrase ‘give someone the slip’ is used to talk about escaping or avoiding someone or something, usually in a manner that is undetected. It is often used when someone has evaded capture or surveillance and when someone has managed to get away without being noticed. It is also sometimes used in a less literal sense, to mean to get away with something or to escape a difficult situation without being caught.

Example Sentences

  • The spy managed to give his followers the slip and escape the area undetected.
  • The thief gave the security guards the slip and disappeared into the night.
  • He was able to give the police the slip and make it home safely.
  • I'm glad I was able to give my creditors the slip and escape their attention.

The meanings of the words in the "give sb the slip" idiom

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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