Pull the wool over someone’s eyes

Pull the wool over someone’s eyes is a well-established idiom with an uncertain origin. 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 pull the wool over someone’s eyes, where it may have come from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To pull the wool over someone’s eyes means to fool him, to trick or deceive him, to take advantage of him. The image invoked is of someone who can not see through wool that has been placed over his eyes. The idiom is often attributed to the men’s fashion of wearing powdered wigs, which are still worn in the British judiciary. However, the expression pull the wool over someone’s eyes was coined in the United States toward the middle of the nineteenth century, when wig-wearing had long gone out of fashion in the United States. The phrase may well be derived from the image of an unshorn sheep. Related phrases are pulls the wool over someone’s eyes, pulled the wool over someone’s eyes, pulling the wool over someone’s eyes.


I have been deeply involved in the pursuit of peace for the past 40 years; there is little that I have not heard, and it is not easy to pull the wool over my eyes. (The Jerusalem Post)

It’s almost a natural transgression of life considering I’m sure it’s not on the school curriculum and I certainly don’t have the skills to teach her how to pull the wool over my eyes, being an unconvincing liar myself. (The Irish Times)

She told the camera: ‘I think Abbie has really pulled the wool over his eyes, and he could be hurt at the end of it.’ (The Daily Mail)

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