What Does Add Insult to Injury Mean?

Add Insult to Injury Meaning

Definition: To say something rude to a person who already has experienced a misfortune; to do something to make a bad situation worse.

Origin of Add Insult to Injury

This expression has existed in English since the mid 1700s. However, some sources point to the Roman fabulist Phaedrus as the first person to record a similar expression.

This man wrote a story about a fly that bit a man on the head. The man tried to slap the fly, but, instead, he ended up hitting himself in the head. Therefore, not only did the fly hurt the man, he embarrassed himself as well.

A phrase with a similar meaning is to kick someone while he’s down.

Examples of Add Insult to Injury

adding insult to injuryIn this example, two sisters are talking about a laundry mishap.

Amy: Oh no! What happened to your tennis outfit?

Kimberly: I accidentally put one red sock in with all my white clothes while doing laundry. The red color of the sock turned all my white clothes pink.

Amy: Hah! You look ridiculous!

Kimberly: Don’t add insult to injury! I am already sad I ruined my expensive clothes.

Amy: You’re right. I’m sorry!

meaning of add insult to injuryIn the second example, two friends are discussing the results of a soccer try out.

Keira: Hey! I made the varsity soccer team! Did you make varsity or junior varsity?

Rory: Neither.

Keira: What do you mean? Everyone who tried out got onto the team. If you were good, you got on varsity, and if you weren’t good, you got onto junior varsity. It’s okay if you only got onto junior varsity. Just tell me.

Rory: I wish I got on the junior varsity team. I didn’t make it on either team. And to add insult to injury, I’m the only person in the whole school who tried out and didn’t make it onto the team.

Keira: That’s awful!

More Examples

This is an example from an article about a driver who drove onto a roof accidentally. He says he was trying to avoid a tricycle.

  • Hopefully his tricycle story is verified because being fully responsible for all of those damage costs would be even more insult to injury. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from an advice column. A person accidentally called a woman a man, and wasn’t sure if apologizing would make things better or worse.

  • I was immediately mortified, but my snap decision was to let it go rather than correct myself or apologize. I didn’t want to add insult to injury, and make an awkward situation worse. I could see she looked a bit upset. I wondered if she was insecure that she wasn’t convincing as a female. –Denver Post


The phrase to add insult to injury means to take a bad situation and worsen it. It can also mean to hurt someone’s feelings after something bad happened to him or her.