Snake in the Grass – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Trust me, you’ve met a snake in the grass in your life, I can assure you because we all have! If you really give the idiom some thought, you can probably decipher its real meaning. But let’s take a detailed look at its origin and the correct way to use it in speech and writing.

Snake in the Grass Meaning

Snake in the Grass Idiom Origin Meaning

The idiomatic phrase “a snake in the grass” is one we use in the English language to describe a deceitful or treacherous person that may not have seemed that way at first. Just think of an actual snake in the grass, waiting to pounce and bite. It’s sort of along the same lines as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Origin of the Phrase Snake in the Grass

The phrase was coined in 37 B.C. by a poet named Virgil and his epic poem, where he used the metaphor to describe a treacherous character who betrays the protagonist. The excerpt, when translated to English, basically states, “You boys that pick flowers and strawberries near the ground, run away from here, a cold snake hides in the grass.”

It didn’t appear in any English texts until 1696, when Charles Leslie used it in the title of his book Snake in the Grass.

Is Snake in the Grass an Idiom?

You bet, “snake in the grass” is considered an idiom in the English language because, even though it also has a literal meaning, we use it in a figurative way today.

Example of Snake in the Grass Personality Type

A “snake in the grass” personality type is someone who appears friendly and likable on the surface but has hidden agendas and will do anything to get what they want. They usually manipulate and deceive others to achieve their goals. They’ll often do deals under the table or swindle you into something you can’t get out of.

Snake in the Grass Synonyms

That’s easy! Basically, it’s any word that means a person you can’t trust. Here are a few ideas I whipped up.

  • Deceitful person
  • Two-faced person
  • Backstabber
  • Traitor
  • Dirty snake
  • Swindler
  • Fraudster
  • Snake oil salesperson
  • Dangerous person
  • Unethical person
  • Judas
  • Con artist

Snake in the Grass Examples in a Sentence

Snake in the Grass Idiom Origin Meaning 1

I love giving the context of a full sentence when explaining how to use a certain word or phrase. Here are a few to give you a better idea of how to use “snake in the grass.”

  • I thought Amy was my friend, but she turned out to be a total snake in the grass, only wanting me to do her homework for her.
  • Be careful of that co-worker. He’s a snake in the grass who will throw you under the bus to get ahead. He recently stole my promotion right out from under me.
  • Mark my words, that politician is a snake in the grass who makes promises he has no intention of keeping.
  • Don’t trust Judas. He’s a snake in the grass who will steal all your best ideas and take credit for them. He’s been doing it for years.
  • Marny pretended to be a helpful neighbor to us, but in reality, she was a snake in the grass stealing from our garden.

Don’t Be a Snake in the Grass

This is one of those idioms that seems pretty obvious what it means or what its roots were. But I love chatting about idioms and phrases and giving tips on how you can use them properly. I hope this guide has helped you!

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