Rub someone’s nose in it

Rub someone’s nose in it is an idiom that is less than 100 years old. An idiom is a commonly used 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 common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, 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, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom rub someone’s nose in it, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Rub someone’s nose in it means to remind someone about an error he has made, something unfortunate that has happened to him, or his general failures. When you rub someone’s nose in it, you bring up something unpleasant repeatedly to humble him or to make him feel stupid or guilty. The expression rub someone’s nose in it came into use in the mid-20th century and is a reference to an old method of housebreaking a dog. The method involved shoving the dog’s nose in any mess that he created in the house as an encouragement to defecate outside, rather than in the house. It was not a very effective method of housebreaking a dog. Related phrases are rubs someone’s nose in it, rubbed someone’s nose in it, rubbing someone’s nose in it.


“She very kindly sent me these messages to rub my nose in it so you might have seen her on the street seven months pregnant with his kid.” (Daily Express)

“They even did a line audit for all 7 years, and to rub my nose in it they made me pay for my share of that.” (Forbes)

Cruel Labour whips have rubbed his nose in it by forcing him to sit on the obscure Commons Crown Employment (Nationality) Sub-committee. (Daily Mail)

Leave a Comment