Read Between the Lines – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

To read between the lines means to perceive or deduce a meaning that’s not explicitly stated in the text or spoken words.

Have you ever received a text message from someone and thought, “Hmm, I think they’re implying something more here?” Voila! You were trying to read between the lines.

Idioms, like read between the lines, are common phrases taken from history lessons or proverbs that we use every day to turn our messages into metaphors. But they only make sense when used correctly.

Read on to learn about the meaning and origin story of this idiom and see how it can be worked into a sentence.

Read Between the Lines Meaning Explained

Read Between the Lines – Idiom Meaning and Origin

Read between the lines means looking beyond what’s just being said to understand the real message. It’s like trying to figure out what someone truly means, even if they aren’t saying it directly. It implies understanding the underlying or hidden meaning behind someone’s words by tapping into emotions, intentions, or even body language that aren’t overtly expressed.

For instance, if a friend hints that maybe you should wear a different colored shirt to a concert, they’re probably suggesting that the one you’ve chosen might not be the best choice, but they don’t want to outright say it and hurt your feelings. So, they hint, and it’s up to you to catch the deeper meaning.

Read Between the Lines Origin and Etymology

Read Between the Lines Ngram
Read between the lines usage trend.

The idiom started in the world of cryptography, which is the art of hiding messages in letters by writing in invisible ink between the visible lines of text. But, its figurative usage, implying an understanding of hidden meanings and intentions, began to flourish in the 19th century.

Synonyms for ‘Read Between the Lines’

  • Decipher
  • Infer
  • Interpret
  • Intuit
  • Perceive
  • Detect

Read Between the Lines Idiom Sentence Examples

Read Between the Lines – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • Karen never explicitly mentioned she was unhappy, but if you read between the lines, it was evident.
  • The politician’s statement was vague, but many read between the lines to understand his stance.
  • I hate it when Ted sends cryptic texts; I always have to read between the lines.
  • Sure, his letter seemed cheerful, but reading between the lines, I could sense his deep loneliness.
  • Your poem’s surface story was simple, but when I read between the lines, it was so deeply profound and layered.
  • My boss never outrightly criticizes anyone; you have to read between the lines with him.
  • I love that the novel leaves a lot for the reader to interpret and read between the lines.
  • When she said she was fine, I read between the lines and decided to stay with her.
  • It’s important to read between the lines when interpreting ancient texts.
  • Some lyrics are direct, while others make you read between the lines to get the true essence.

Keep Reading

Read between the lines is a testament to our ability to sense deeper, hidden meanings in communication with others. It’s about not just hearing or reading words but understanding sentiments and social cues. Now, take a moment and sift through our collection of other great idioms just like this one!