pull someone's leg

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



The phrase, from Scotland, originally meant to make a fool of someone, often by cheating them. One theory is that it derives from tripping someone by yanking or pulling their leg, in order to make them stumble and look foolish.[1]


  • (file)


pull someone's leg (third-person singular simple present pulls someone's leg, present participle pulling someone's leg, simple past and past participle pulled someone's leg)

  1. (idiomatic) To tease someone; to lead someone on; to goad someone into overreacting. It usually implies teasing or goading by jokingly lying.
    • 1934, Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance, 1992 Bantam edition, →ISBN, page 111:
      I hadn't pulled Mrs. Barstow's leg for any of that stuff, she had just handed it to me on a platter, and that wasn't my fault.
    • 1979, Life of Brian[1], spoken by Mr. Cheeky (Eric Idle):
      No, I'm just pulling your leg, it's crucifixion really.
  2. (idiomatic, obsolete) To extract money from someone (by taking out a loan or by swindling). [late 19th c.]
    • 1886, Mark Well, An Old-Time Tip[2], volume 12:
      I'm very glad to hear of his good fortune; but it's a deuced strange thing, for I saw him at the club last night and he never said a word of it. I'll pull his leg when I see him.
    • 1893, John Kendrick Bangs, Coffee and Repartee[3]:
      The verb 'to-pull-his-leg' means to extract from his pocket all the lucre it will yield.
    • 1895, Reports of Decisions in Probate[4]:
      "I would 'pull his leg,' but Laura will not work with me." The expression "pulling his leg," Miss Sullivan explained as meaning to coax or wheedle his wealth out of him.

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 'pull one's leg', Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd edition, 1988