What does the idiom "have the cheek" mean?

Are you using the idiom have the cheek 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 have the cheek idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "have the cheek"


The idiom "have the cheek" is an expression of boldness and audacity. It is used to describe someone who exhibits a certain level of boldness or nerve in a situation, often without regard for the consequences. The phrase is usually used to describe an act which is viewed as disrespectful or inappropriate, but it can also be used to commend someone for their courage or confidence in certain circumstances.


The phrase "have the cheek" is thought to have originated in the mid-19th century, with its earliest printed use being in the 1840 publication of “The Book of English Proverbs” by John Ray, who defines it as meaning “to have the hardihood or assurance to risk the displeasure of others.” It was a commonly used phrase in the United Kingdom up until the mid-20th century, and is still used in some contexts to this day.


This phrase is mainly employed in informal social contexts and is often used in conversation to express disapproval or disapproval in a joking manner. It is also used to describe someone who is willing to challenge authority or social conventions in a bold way. It is also often used to describe someone who makes a daring or shocking statement without fear of the consequences. However, it can also be used to express admiration for a person’s courage in a difficult situation.

Example Sentences

  • I can't believe she had the cheek to ask the teacher for an extension.
  • He had the cheek to change the rules in the middle of the game.
  • She had the cheek to stand up to the bosses and demand a raise.
  • He had the cheek to propose to his girlfriend in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

The meanings of the words in the "have the cheek" idiom

Idioms have a common language

"The early bird catches the worm" is an English idiom that means that those who wake up early and start their day early are more likely to succeed. A similar idiom in Spanish is "El que madruga, Dios le ayuda," which translates to "God helps those who rise early." This idiom emphasizes the importance of starting the day early in order to achieve success.


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