Take the mickey out of someone

To take the mickey out of someone is an idiom used largely outside of the United States. It means to tease or make fun of someone. It is usually meant in a lighthearted or fun manner, not to ridicule or bash. The phrase has many variations, including take the mike out of someone, take the Michael out of someone, or take the mick out of someone.

The origin of the phrase is someone vague, but it seems to come from the name Mickey (not Mickey Mouse). Over time the capitalization was taken away, though some still use it.

The phrase has a noun form derivative of mickey-taking, which can be used as an adjective.


Tate isn’t afraid to take the mickey out of Brown and make a bit of a show of him, unlike other biopics that often have a tendency to portray their subjects in a somewhat po-faced way, victims of their own success and of unscrupulous management/hangers-on/family/etc. [Irish Independent]

“He took the Mickey out of me on a lot of things and just turned it into a bit of a joke which really helped. I can always rely on him for that but at the same time I knew he was very proud.” [Rugby Heaven]

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew enjoyed taking the mickey out of a reporter during his post match press conference, when the journalist’s mobile rang. [Daily Mail]

We’ve always taken the mickey out of him a bit for getting over 100 kg and the boys rip into him a bit, but he’s elite with his skin folds now. [Yahoo News AU]

Footballer entourages are traditionally cast as negative distractions but Bale’s party seems to provide the ideal counterbalance to his superstar public life – lots of good-natured mickey-taking and support, basically. [The Telegraph]

That phrase has come back to haunt me on many mickey-taking occasions since. [Belfast Telegraph]

5 thoughts on “Take the mickey out of someone”

  1. In my observation, as an ancient and well-travelled Australian/Brit, I
    can say I have never heard the expression “taking the mickey out of
    someone”. It’s always been just “taking the mickey”, period.
    (Alternatively, “taking the piss”.) Also, it’s not USUALLY said in fun.
    Indeed, the object of an act of mickey-taking usually takes offence at
    being taken for a fool. “Are you taking the mick?” is a serious
    challenge – again, of course, in my experience.

    If I had to guess
    it’s origin, I would say it’s English, using “mick(ey)” the slang word
    for an Irish person – the Irish being considered, in prejudiced English
    eyes, as stupid. It’s plausible: I won’t claim any more than that!

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    • You’ve (almost) touched on one of the great dividers between American and the Queen’s English. Americans are bemused/horrified if invited by a Brit to go out for the evening ‘and get really pissed’. To the Brit (and Australian, I believe) it means drunk, to the Yank it means angry. Sort of like the classic confusion when the Brit tells the American that he ‘promised his girlfriend that he’d knock her up in the morning’. To the American, that would sound like a rude awakening indeed.

      “Two nations divided by a common language”, indeed.

    • As an Englishman I can quite confidently say you can take the mickey or piss out of someone. It usually means mimicking or parodying someone or teasing them in front of someone else. To shorten it to taking the piss, mickey, mick (sometimes Mike or even Michael for effect) is to do something which is not up to standard or value – like “John is late for work again, he must be taking the Mick” or “You want £200 to change the oil? you’re taking the piss mate!”.


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