Play fast and loose

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To play fast and loose is an interesting idiom that dates back to the 1500s. We will examine the definition of the phrase play fast and loose, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To play fast and loose means to behave in a careless manner, to behave recklessly or unreliably. To play fast and loose may also mean to behave in an immoral manner. Related phrases are plays fast and loose, played fast and loose, playing fast and loose. The idiom play fast and loose comes from a type of carnival game in which the player attempts to snare a hoop or leather loop with a stick. The idea is to use the stick to make the loop fast, or secure. However, the game operator cheats the customer by rigging things so that the loop remains loose. The term play fast and loose came into use as early as the 1500s, to mean both the method of cheating in a carnival game and as an idiom to mean to behave in a careless manner.


The risks to the country if Democrats play fast and loose with the law to unseat a duly elected president are grave. (The Boston Herald)

While this high octane musical revue may also play fast and loose with some of the historical timeline, its “contemporary colonial” take, catchy tunes and witty lyrics cleverly weave those strands of past and present together into a satisfying and hugely entertaining whole. (The Manawatu Standard)

Unlike, say, the musical “Mack and Mabel” (which chronicles some of the same era), “The Will Rogers Follies” doesn’t play fast and loose with the truth. (The Hartford Courant)