A snake in the grass

Photo of author


A snake in the grass is an idiom that extends back into antiquity. 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 meaning of the phrase snake in the grass, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A snake in the grass is an unethical person, someone who is harmful but who does not seem to be. A snake in the grass may be a sneaky person who appears harmless or even friendly but in fact, is treacherous. The term snake in the grass was first used by the poet Virgil in the third Eclogue is the line latet anguis in herba,  which means “a snake lurks in the grass.” Around 1290, the phrase migrated to England as the Latin proverb cum totum fecisse putas, latet anguis in herba,  which means “Though everything looks clean, a snake lurks in the grass.” When used as an adjective before a noun, the phrase is hyphenated as in snake-in-the-grass. 


“It was a slimy thing to do and now he’s just a snake in the grass too,” next-door neighbor Alexis Lee, 34, told the paper. (The New York Post)

Councillor Brian Harker said: “I have been on this council long enough to spot a snake in the grass.” (The Clacton and Frinton Gazette)

Not only does matriarch Dorothy (Sherry Dee Allen) have to contend with sudden widowhood, but she’s also faced with church committee harpy Ozella Meeks (Kitty Reel) sticking her nose in the family business, Dewey’s snake-in-the-grass brother (John Hammons) making a grab for her house, and two grown daughters (Kylene Booher and Jennifer Bryant) reliving their childhood rivalry. (The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Help Us Improve!

Help Us Improve!

- Did we make a mistake?
- Do you have feedback or suggestions on how we can improve?