What does the idiom "wet behind the ears" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase wet behind the ears, 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 wet behind the ears used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "wet behind the ears"


The idiom ‘wet behind the ears’ is used to describe someone who is inexperienced, naïve and unaware of how the world works. It suggests that this person is still new to the given situation and needs guidance to understand what is happening.


The phrase ‘wet behind the ears’ originates from around 1615 in the form ‘wee and wet behind the eares’. It is believed to be derived from the description of newborn animals and babies, who are often wet from birthing fluids. The phrase ‘wet behind the ears’ was first recorded in 1775 and became widespread in the mid-1800s.


The phrase ‘wet behind the ears’ is used to describe someone who is new to a certain situation or environment, often implying that they need guidance. The phrase can be used in both a serious and joking manner, and can be seen as both an insult or a sign of affection depending on the context. The phrase is often used to refer to a young person, but can be used in other contexts too.

Example Sentences

  • “They’re still wet behind the ears and have a lot to learn about the industry.”
  • “He may be wet behind the ears but he’s got so much potential!”
  • “Oh come on, you’re not so wet behind the ears that you don’t know the answer to that question!”

The meanings of the words in the "wet behind the ears" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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