Give Him the Slip (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Give Him the Slip"?

The term "give [someone] the slip" means to escape from someone.
Give Him the Slip (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • After a long chase, the burglar gave the police the slip.
  • I do not want to talk to the boss, so I will make a coffee and give him the slip when he comes in the office.
  • He tracked the bear for days, but it gave him the slip when it crossed a river.
  • Here comes Anne. Let's give her the slip and hide down this alley.
This idiom originates from the verb "to slip," which means to release from a leash. It is typically used for dogs. Here it is in William Shakespeare's tragedy "Julius Caesar," which was first performed in 1599:
  • "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."
  • (In essence, this means "release the hounds!")
Similarly, when a dog escapes its leash, it is said to have "slipped its leash" or "slipped its collar." It conjures the image of the dog being too slippery to restrain.

"Slip" (the associated noun) has become a synonym for "escape," and the term "to give someone the slip" means to escape.

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