What Does Foot in Mouth Mean?

Foot in Mouth Meaning

Definition: To say something embarrassing or inconsiderate, especially at an inappropriate moment.

Origin of Foot in Mouth

This expression first appeared in the late-1800s. Another common way to say this is to put one’s foot in one’s mouth.

Some sources suggest that it is derived from to put one’s foot in it. This earlier expression means to do something embarrassing. It may come from the mistake of putting one’s foot in mud or feces. The newer version, to put one’s foot in one’s mouth, may have developed to specifically mean doing something embarrassing through one’s speech.

A variant, foot in mouth disease, appeared around the mid-twentieth century. This variant is a play on words that relates to the disease foot and mouth disease. The medical disease affects animals with hooves, such as cows, pigs, and sheep.

Although animals can recover, farmers usually kill the infected animals to prevent spread of the disease and loss of production. The foot in mouth disease expression implies that someone said something so embarrassing that it is as bad a problem as the agricultural disease.

Examples of Foot in Mouth

put foot in mouth meaningIn this example, two sisters are discussing an embarrassing mistake that one of them made.

Amy: I made a terrible mistake.

Kimberly: Oh no. What happened now?

Amy: My boyfriend finally forgave me for cheating on him, and things were just starting to go back to normal when I accidentally called him by the wrong name.

Kimberly: Uh oh. That’s pretty bad.

Amy: I know. I really put my foot in my mouth.

foot in mouth definitionIn the second example, two friends are at the gym.

Keira: Let’s get changed out of these gym clothes so we can go home.

Rory: Sounds good to me. Haha, look at these jeans someone left on the bench in the changing room. They’re so hideous! Who would wear something so out of style?

Keira: Um, those are my jeans. You think they’re ugly?

Rory: Um, no…

Keira: It’s too late to deny it. You’ve really got to do something about your foot in mouth problem.

More Examples

This example is about sexism in the media when covering the Olympics.

  • A week into the Rio Games, NBC and some other U.S. news outlets have taken a drubbing for a sexist approach to female athletes. But around the world, other media organizations are showing they aren’t about to let the Americans win gold, silver and bronze in the foot-in-mouth competition. –LA Times

This excerpt is about an actor who plays a character in a popular play.

  • But sit down to talk to Ben Platt, the 19-year-old who plays Elder Cunningham in the Chicago production, and you quickly figure out he has all of his character’s endearing enthusiasm without the rampant foot-in-mouth disease. –LA Times

Summary

The idiom foot in mouth means saying something tactless or otherwise humiliating.

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