tit for tat

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Origin uncertain: conjectured to be related to "dit voor dat" - Dutch for "this for that", "tip for tap" (i.e. a blow for a blow), or French "tant pour tant" (equal for equal) - The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms - Eds. Elizabeth McLaren Kirkpatrick, Catherine M. Schwarz, 1993


tit for tat (plural tit for tats)

  1. (idiomatic) equivalent retribution, an eye for an eye, returning exactly what you get.
    If you hit me, I'll hit you back; tit for tat.
  2. (Cockney rhyming slang) hat.



tit for tat (not comparable)

  1. Having the characteristic of returning bad for bad.
    Unfortunately, many adults retain a tit-for-tat attitude, but in a more refined way than the simple, childish shove for shove.
    • From The Guardian June, 22 2007.
      Amid fears that the end to more than five and a half years of talks would lead to a new era of tit-for-tat protectionism, negotiations between the United States and the European Union broke down.

Usage notes[edit]

As an adjective, tit-for-tat uses hyphens.

Derived terms[edit]