What does the idiom "on the level" mean?

Although the meanings of the words in them do not make any sense when examined one by one, the word groups that are shaped according to the cultural roots of the language and that make sense as a whole are called idioms. on the level meaning, in what situations is it used?

Meaning of "on the level"


The phrase 'on the level' is an idiom that can be used in two contexts. First, it can describe something to be honest or truthful. It suggests that the conversation or action is free of any deceit or dishonesty. In this context, it is used to emphasize that something is being done in earnest and that it is genuine. The other context in which it can be used is to refer to someone's character or reputation. This implies that the person is reliable and trustworthy. Thus, this phrase is a way of expressing either the truthfulness of a conversation or the dependability of a person's character.


The first known instance of the phrase 'on the level' was in the early 1800s. It is believed to have originated in Britain and was used as slang for acknowledging that someone was telling the truth. The phrase soon became popular in the United States and was later used to describe someone's character or reliability. The phrase is derived from the old use of building structures, such as houses and roads, on a "level" plane or foundation. This was meant to ensure that the structure would remain stable and secure. Thus, the phrase is a metaphor for being honest and forthright.


The phrase 'on the level' can be used in both casual and formal settings. It can be used when trying to determine whether someone is telling the truth, or when vouching for someone's character and reliability. It can also be used as a sarcastic response when someone is accusing another of being untrustworthy. For example, if someone were to accuse their friend of lying, the friend might respond with "I'm being honest, I'm on the level."

Example Sentences

  • I trust him, he's always been on the level.
  • I just want to make sure we're all on the level here.
  • I know you can be depended on, you're on the level.
  • Yeah right, like I'm going to believe you. On the level.

The meanings of the words in the "on the level" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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