Pay lip service

Pay lip service is an old idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom pay lip service, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Pay lip service is a verb phrase that means to pledge allegiance to an idea but to not take any concrete actions in support. Pay lip service also means to promise to do something but not do it or to make statements of support that are insincere. The phrase pay lip service came into use in the 1500s; at that time, it was primarily used to describe praying insincerely. Other popular terms in the 1500s were lip-labour and lip-devotion, both expressions that mean praying insincerely. Though the term pay lip service is sometimes seen hyphenated, the Oxford English Dictionary spells the phrase without any hyphens. Related phrases are pays lip service, paid lip service, paying lip service. The term lip service is also used independently, to mean an insincere promise.


The rules on the erection of banners and cutouts in the Union Territory have been watered down by successive governments over the years, thanks to poor enforcement by local bodies and promises by political parties remaining only lip service. (The Hindu)

Following the release of a report by the Office of the Auditor General outlining government’s failure over the last few years to act on PAC reports and recommendations, Ezzard Miller said the government’s responses to the reports “paid lip service to reform and greater accountability” and that “nothing was ever really done”. (Cayman News Service)

For traditional profit-seeking companies, investors will understand if executives pay lip service to social goals. (Forbes)

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