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See also: tongue in cheek


Alternative forms[edit]


This phrase alludes to the facial expression created by putting one's tongue in one's cheek. The term first appeared in print in 1828,[1] but isn't entirely clear that it was used with the modern, rather than a literal, sense. A later citation from Richard Barham is unambiguous.[2]


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tongue-in-cheek (comparative more tongue-in-cheek, superlative most tongue-in-cheek)

  1. (idiomatic) Not intended seriously; jocular or humorous.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:witty
    He gave a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why the sky was blue, offering a theory about some primordial discount on light blue paint.



tongue-in-cheek (not comparable)

  1. (obsolete) With contempt.
  2. With irony.
    He portrayed them tongue-in-cheek as great lawgivers, as Solons.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Walter Scott (1828) , chapter VIII, in Fair Maid of Perth: “It is true, the fellow who gave this all hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself; []
  2. ^ Richard Barham (1845) , “The Black Mousquetaire”, in The Ingoldsby Legends, page 236: “He examined the face, And the back of the case, / And the young Lady's portrait there, done on enamel, he / "Saw by the likeness was one of the family;" / Cried "Superbe! Magnifique!" / (With his tongue in his cheek)”