What Does to Hit Below The Belt Mean?

Hitting Below the Belt Meaning

Definition: Hurting or insulting someone in an inappropriate way.

This expression is often used when insults become too personal.

Origin of Hitting Below the Belt

This idiom became popular somewhere after the year 1850. It comes from the sport of boxing, in which the rules state that fighters must not hit each other below the belt line.

A hit below the belt is especially painful for the athletes, and this idea corresponds to its idiomatic usage as well. If one hits someone below the belt, figuratively speaking, it is seen as being especially insulting and uncalled for.

Examples of Hitting Below the Belt

to hit below the belt idiom meaningIn this example, two sisters are arguing with each other, and one of them insults the other in an inappropriate way.

Amy: I wish you would clean your dishes! You never do.

Kimberly: I do so. You never clean the bathroom.

Amy: That’s not true. You leave the bathroom way messier than I do!

Kimberly: You leave the whole house messier than I do!

Amy: Well, you smell bad.

Kimberly: Hey! You don’t have to hit below the belt. I have a medical condition. I can’t help how I smell.

meaning of hit below the beltIn the second example, the idiom is used between two friends who are discussing a third person whom they don’t want to spend any more time with.

Keira: Are you going to invite Phoebe to the wedding?

Emily: Well, I’d rather not. She takes everything so personally. I can’t even joke with her without her getting offended.

Keira: I know. And then she lashes out and starts being really insulting!

Emily: I know! She doesn’t even jokingly insult you. She really hits below the belt.

Keira: Yeah. It’s better not to invite her. You don’t want any drama at your wedding.

More Examples

Here is an example of the idiom being used in an advice column by a woman who wrote in to say that although she never insults her husband in a way that is too personal, she accidentally annoys him in other ways.

  • It’s just, he drives me crazy. FWIW, I never yell at him or say things that hit below the belt, but he sees my annoyance at every little thing he does, which is so unfair because most of the time he’s not doing anything “wrong”. –Washington Post

In this excerpt, the newspaper reports of an athlete who thought an article was hitting below the belt.

  • Woods’ article, posted at theplayerstribune.com, complained that the article was journalistically irresponsible and hit below the belt. –USA Today

Summary

The phrase hit below the belt is a way to describe a physical or verbal assault that goes too far by becoming too personal or too hurtful.

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