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

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does Pull someone's leg mean? In what situations is Pull someone's leg used?

Meaning of "Pull someone's leg"


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.


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.


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

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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