Add Insult to Injury – 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.

Adding insult to injury is probably not the wisest course of action, but it sure does make for a vibrant phrase! As we’ve all likely encountered situations where things go from bad to worse, the idiom add insult to injury vividly expresses such moments. Wondering how to use it properly? Then let’s peel back the layers of this timeless phrase.

The Meaning of Adding Insult to Injury

Add Insult to Injury Origin Meaning

It’s more about emotional injury than physical injury. Adding insult to injury means making a bad or awkward situation way worse than it already is. This happens when someone not only suffers a misfortune (aka injury) but also gets mocked, criticized or faces some other horrible adversity (insult) on top of it.

It’s like getting splashed by a passing car after slipping on a banana peel or tripping and falling right after you fight with someone. Talk about a no-good, very bad day!

Add Insult to Injury: Origin and Etymology

The origin of this phrase is believed to date back to Roman times and one of Aesop’s fables called “The Bald Man and the Fly.” In the story, a bald man swats a fly that has bitten him, hitting himself on the head in the process.

The fly taunts, “What will you do to yourself now that you have added insult to injury?” It’s not hard to see why this phrase has stuck around because it’s relatable, vivid, and has a touch of the dramatic.

Synonyms for Adding Insult to Injury

Of course, most of the synonyms for this phrase are just other idioms. If you need to switch up your wordage, try one of these instead.

  • Rub salt in the wound
  • Kick someone when they’re down
  • Add fuel to the fire
  • Pour oil on the flames
  • Twist the knife
  • Add salt to injury

Adding Insult to Injury Examples in a Sentence

Add Insult to Injury Origin Meaning 1

Here are a few examples that show how you can slip this phrase into conversation with others.

  • After losing my job, my car added insult to injury by breaking down on the way home, and I had to walk the rest of the way in the rain.
  • As if being stood up wasn’t bad enough, the fancy restaurant added insult to injury by charging me for the meal and for the empty seat.
  • The referee adds insult to injury, giving a red card after awarding the controversial penalty that everyone booed at.
  • My parents not only missed their flight, but the airline also lost their luggage, adding insult to injury.
  • The sudden downpour added insult to injury at my cousin’s outdoor wedding ceremony.
  • I was already late to the mandatory morning meeting, and a traffic jam just added insult to injury.

Watch Your Back

Navigating the world of idioms can sometimes feel like walking a figurative tightrope. But don’t worry! With the phrase add insult to injury under your belt, you’ve made it safely across this time. Stock up on fun idiomatic phrases like this with my other guides, and break them out whenever you can!

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