Get under one’s skin

Get under one’s skin is a popular idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom get under one’s skin, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

When something is said to get under one’s skin, it means to be annoyed or irritated, to be bothered by someone or something, to become provoked or to become obsessed with something. The image is of an insect, splinter, or other irritant lodged under one’s skin that one may have difficulty removing. Less often, if someone is said to get under one’s skin, it may mean that one has become romantically interested in that person. The expression get under one’s skin came into use in the late 1800s, but its popularity exploded in the latter half of the twentieth century. Related phrases are gets under one’s skin, got under one’s skin, getting under one’s skin.


You know, seldom does something get under my skin, but this time they are hurting a friend of mine, and I just have to tell you the TRUTH about what they say. (The Coastal Breeze News)

The voices do hold a certain amount of power over me – they are after all caused by my brain – so they have insight into all my insecurities and how I’m feeling at any given moment, and they know how to get under my skin. (The Manchester Evening News)

Another incident that got under my skin was when a student said I looked like rapper Wiz Khalifa, then proceeded to touch my dreadlocks. (Science Magazine)

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