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

Are you using the idiom give sb the slip but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the give sb the slip idiom and the situations in which it is used.

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

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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