What does the idiom "pull one's leg" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase pull one's leg, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression pull one's leg used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "pull one's leg"


‘Pull one's leg’ is an idiomatic expression in English that refers to deceiving someone by telling them something that is not true, usually as a joke. It generally implies that the speaker is teasing or teasing someone in a friendly way.


The phrase was first used in the late 1800s. It is thought to have originated from the idea that a person is being ‘pulled’ or ‘leg-pulled’ by someone, as if their leg were being pulled by a string.


The phrase is used today in a friendly and humorous way. It can be used to tell someone a ‘white lie’ or to make a joke out of a situation. It can also be used to describe someone who is known to frequently tell stories that are not true.

Example Sentences

  • "Don't believe everything he tells you—he likes to pull your leg."
  • "Jack was pulling my leg when he said he'd won the lottery."
  • "He's always pulling people's legs, you know he can't be serious."

The meanings of the words in the "pull one's leg" 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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