What Does Get Off My Back Mean?

Get Off My Back Meaning

Definition: Leave me alone; Stop bothering me about that issue.

Origin of Get Off My Back

This term dates back to the 1800s but has been popular since the 1930s. It remains, to this day, an example of slang English. The precise origin of the phrase appears to have been lost.

Some speculate that is relates to another idiom to have a monkey on my back, which, in the 1930s had a similar meaning of being angry or annoyed. In some modern contexts, a monkey on my back is a euphemism for a drug addiction.

Telling someone to get off your back doesn’t imply an addiction, however.

To understand this expression, try to imagine a person sitting on your back, telling you what to do. This person may repeat himself over and over again, telling you to do something that you don’t want to do, or that you can’t do. You obviously would want this person to get off your back and stop ordering you around. This is the idea behind the expression.

The phrase usually appears as an order in the imperative form, and most of the time, it appears with the possessive adjective my. However, it is possible to use other possessive adjectives such as his, her, your, their, etc.

The figurative idea of having a burden, on one’s back, goes back even further and pre-dates this expression.

Examples of Get Off My Back

get off my back idiom meaningThis example shows two coworkers discussing an upcoming presentation that they must give together.

Regina: Did you prepare all the handouts yet?

Ginny: No, not yet. As I already told you, I have to finalize the last edits to the PowerPoint before I can print the handouts.

Regina: Well, we shouldn’t leave that to the last minute. I would do it myself if I had access to the printer. Please try to do it soon.

Ginny: We can’t do it yet. We have to wait until we get the final information.

Reggie: You could still print—

Ginny: Get off my back!

Reggie: Oh!

Ginny: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude. Still, you have to stop telling me to print that stuff. I can’t do it yet. Nothing you say will change that. You just have to be patient.

get off of my backIn this example, two friends are talking about the expectations of their parents.

Kevin: My parents really want me to become a lawyer, even though I’m only interested in history.

Steve: I know. My parents want me to be a doctor. They pester me about it all the time. I keep telling them that I just want to be a musician! I just need them to get off my back.

More Examples

This excerpt is professional football.

  • As any fan of the English Premier League could tell you, Kroenke is a dirty word in North London. And his NFL team is a wreck that has washed up on the beach in Southern California. But Arsenal and the Rams are not my problem. So get off my back, OK? The hard-working staff here at Kickin’ It Headquarters has its hands full trying to fix the Nuggets, Avalanche and Rapids. –Denver Post

This quote is from an article about a musical star who messed up a performance.

  • “Everyone should just get off her back and leave her the hell alone and hopefully she will find her way to the right professionals for guidance,” the now-Broadway producer concluded. “It’s never about the fall, it’s all about the recovery.” –Houston Chronicle


The expression to get off one’s back is to stop criticizing someone about something.