The genie is out of the bottle

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The genie is out of the bottle is an idiom that may not be as old as you think. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom the genie is out of the bottle, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

The genie is out of the bottle means that something has been done that cannot be undone; a secret may have been revealed, forces may have been put into motion, privileges may have been granted that cannot be retracted, etc. When the genie is out of the bottle, things cannot be restored to the way they were before. The negative, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, is also often used to mean what has been done cannot be undone. The expression the genie is out of the bottle is derived from Arabian mythology that was introduced to the West with the publication of One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales published in English at the turn of the eighteenth century. The expression the genie is out of the bottle did not become popular until the 1960s and may be related to the advent of the nuclear bomb. The word genie was first used in English to mean guardian spirit in the 1650s; the word is derived from the Latin word genius. Coincidentally, genie resembles the Arabic word jinni, which means a spirit.


Although the pendulum has swung back in recent months – with in-person outpatient visits returning to pre-pandemic levels and some insurers pulling back on reimbursement – all indications are, as Seema Verma, the administrator of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), stated, that “the genie is out of the bottle on this one” and there’s no going back on telehealth. (Harvard Business Review)

An experienced COVID-19 doctor who helped remove crew from the ill-fated Ruby Princess says Melbourne’s outbreak shows the “genie is out of the bottle” in Australia. (Brisbane Times)

Teen vaping rates skyrocket and governments frantically rush about trying to put the genie back in the bottle. (South China Morning Post)