What does the idiom "The pot calling the kettle black" 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 The pot calling the kettle black mean? In what situations is The pot calling the kettle black used?
Meaning of "The pot calling the kettle black"
The phrase "the pot calling the kettle black" is used to refer to a situation where someone levels a criticism or an accusation towards another person, while ironically, the accuser is actually guilty of the same offense. This idiom is used to point out the hypocrisy of the accuser.
The idiom "the pot calling the kettle black" is believed to have originated in the 16th century. The phrase appeared in a 1546 work by playwright and satirist John Heywood titled "A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue." In the play, a man named John accuses his friend Tom of being too critical of others, and responds with the phrase, "Why, thou doest so, when thou sayest my pot is black and thine is white, the pot calling the kettle black".
The idiom "the pot calling the kettle black" is used to describe a situation in which someone is making accusations or criticisms at another person, while they are guilty of the same offense. It's often used as a way to point out the hypocrisy of the accuser. This idiom can be used to refer to actual situations, as well as more figurative arguments. For example, someone might accuse their friend of being bad with money, while failing to recognize that they too have a history of mismanaging their finances.
- When Jenny started criticizing her sister for wearing too much makeup, her father reminded her of the pot calling the kettle black—she wears a lot of makeup, too.
- I think it's a bit hypocritical of my boss to give me a hard time about being late to work, when he's often late himself—it's like the pot calling the kettle black.
Idioms with similar meanings in different languages
"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.