What does the idiom "Pull someone's leg" mean?

Are you using the idiom Pull someone's leg 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 Pull someone's leg idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "Pull someone's leg"

Meaning

The idiom ‘to pull someone’s leg’ typically means to tease, joke, or otherwise playfully deceive another person. It originates from an older sense of the phrase, which described a more physical action. This older meaning referred to pulling someone’s leg as a gesture of friendship, essentially tugging on the leg of someone you cared about, to show them affection. Over time, this has evolved and now almost universally implies a sense of playful trickery.

Etymology

The origin of the phrase is disputed, but some scholars argue that it likely comes from a late eighteenth century practice of gentle teasing, and in some cases, even mischief-making. This would include pulling a person’s leg or teasing them with words. There are also some theories that the phrase originated as ‘to pull leg leather’, describing the practice of pulling a person’s leather leggings as a friendly sign of good humor.

Usage

This idiom is often used to jokingly deceive someone, and can be used in various contexts. While it can occasionally be taken seriously, it is usually meant to be humorous and should be interpreted within that scope. It does not always have to be in relation to pranks or joking; it can also be used to refer to someone who exaggerates or tells untruths in order to be entertaining or evoke certain feelings in another person.

Example Sentences

  • My friend was telling me about his day and I could tell he was just pulling my leg.
  • Don’t even try to pull my leg, I’m not falling for it!
  • My brother is always trying to pull my leg on April Fool’s Day.
  • I could tell my boss was pulling my leg when he said I was getting a raise.

The meanings of the words in the "Pull someone's leg" 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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