Below the belt and hit below the belt are idioms that originated in the United States. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definitions of below the belt and hit below the belt, where these phrases came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Below the belt and hit below the belt both mean a tactic that is unfair or underhanded, a tactic that disregards the rules. The terms below the belt and hit below the belt were first used in the United States in the 1850s, taken from the sport of boxing. The London Prize Ring Rules of 1743 included this passage: “That no person is to hit his Adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist a man on his knees to be reckoned down.” The phrases below the belt and hit below the belt soon entered mainstream English as idioms, and were used figuratively.
The delegitimizing onslaught of the Trump administration is like a fight in which a martial arts fighter is kicking below the belt, and the news media is fighting under the gentlemanly Marquess of Queensberry rules. (The San Luis Obispo Tribune)
Used to be that although we like our leaders to be fighters, we didn’t really want them to hit below the belt. (The Charlotte Observer)
I never yell at him or say things that hit below the belt, but he sees my annoyance at every little thing he does, which is so unfair because most of the time he’s not doing anything “wrong.” (The Seattle Times)