Read between the lines

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Read between the lines is a phrase that once had a literal meaning but today, is an idiom. An idiom is a phrase that has taken on a meaning other than its literal meaning. We will look at the definition of the term read between the lines, where it came from and some examples of its meaning in sentences.

To read between the lines means to understand the implicit meaning in a written communication, a spoken communication or a situation. The implicit meaning is the meaning which is not directly expressed. The idiom read between the lines is most probably derived from a cryptography practice where the true meaning of a communication was contained in between the lines written in a letter. This communication was often written in invisible ink, which would only be seen upon heating the parchment or applying an acid so one could read between the lines. Invisible ink has been used as far back as Ancient Greece. The literal phrase read between the lines became an idiom in the mid-1800s.


The setup is certainly interesting, especially when we learn that Pierre’s sister was also apparently stolen as a baby, but the degree to which we’re supposed to read between the lines and interpret the characters’ feelings is absurd. (The Santa Fe Reporter)

“I think he was earning their respect was what they were really saying, if you read between the lines.” (The Washington Post)

Smart money in home building and development will read between the lines of the obvious when it comes to the migration and eventual settling of the mega-force young-adult household that will shape the character, economics, social, and cultural contours of the first half of the 21st Century. (Builder Magazine)