A slap on the wrist

A slap on the wrist is an idiom that has risen sharply in popularity since the mid-1900s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom a slap on the wrist, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

A slap on the wrist is a minor punishment, a slight reprimand, a mild warning for a transgression. Often, the phrase a slap on the wrist is used when the punishment should have been more extensive for the severity of the crime or transgression. Usually, someone who gets a slap on the wrist for a crime or for breaking the rules is a person who has power, social standing, or money or his family has power, social standing, or money. The phrase a slap on the wrist functions as a noun. It has been in use since the mid-1700s, but the popularity of the phrase has grown quickly since the mid-1900s.

Examples

Lawyer Michelle Acosta told the Texas Lawyer that lawyer Allan Manka received only a “small slap on the wrist” for the alleged June assault at the courthouse in Floresville. (The ABA Journal)

Bryce Walker, the monstrous jock who raped both Jessica Davis and Hannah Baker during season one, and essentially got away with a slap on the wrist in season two, is dead. (Cosmopolitan Magazine)

In a separate statement, Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii said the “slap on the wrist” for Zakir sets a bad precedent, and shows that individuals can make highly sensitive remarks if they are popular enough. (Malaysiakini)

Earlier in August, it was revealed that Musk got a slap on the wrist from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for falsely bragging on the company blog that they had the safest cars. (The New York Post)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: