Laugh up one’s sleeve

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Laugh up one’s sleeve is an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common saying laugh up one’s sleeve, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To laugh up one’s sleeve means to find something secretly amusing, to laugh at someone or something inwardly, without showing any sign of one’s mirth. The image invoked is the act of covering one’s facial expression with one’s arm. The expression laugh up one’s sleeve was originally laugh in one’s sleeve, and came into use in the sixteenth century. Related phrases are laughs up one’s sleeve, laughed up one’s sleeve, laughing up one’s sleeve.


One wonders if the mayor is trolling the city, laughing up his sleeve as he performs what would resemble a successful chief executive’s lame-duck victory lap, if things weren’t unraveling so disastrously. (New York Post)

George Bush could be forgiven if he is down in Houston laughing up his sleeve at President Clinton’s continuing embarrassment at the hands of the Chinese. (Baltimore Sun)

Whatever he chooses, it is highly improbable that Hollande will come out of this without a scratch and Nicolas Sarkozy is reportedly laughing up his sleeve patiently waiting for the next general election. (London Economic)