What Does Pull a Fast One Mean?

Pull a Fast One Meaning

Definition: To deceive someone.

Origin of Pull a Fast One

This idiom originated in the first half of the 1900s in the United States. The exact origin is unclear. However, some sources speculate that it comes from card games.

Many card games involve gambling. If a person wanted to cheat, he or she might try to shuffle the cards in such a way as to favor himself or herself. One way to do this is to quickly and discreetly put the favorable cards on the top or bottom of the deck. When dealing, deal yourself the best cards and deal the other players random cards. A person pulling a fast one could mean a person quickly pulling cards from the deck in order to cheat.

An early use of it can be found in A. Gilbert’s 1958 Death Against the Clock:

  • Mad to think they can pull a fast one.

Other sources mention pull as having a definition that means a mechanical catch that can be used in magician’s tricks. Other early definitions mean to steal or to cheat in sports games.

These may be other possible origins for the expression. A synonymous expression is to pull something on someone.

Examples of Pull a Fast One

what does it mean to pull a fast oneThis example dialogue involves a husband and wife. The wife thinks her husband is acting suspiciously.

Jennie: Bobby, where are you going? It’s almost dinnertime.

Bobby: I’m just taking the car to get its oil changed.

Jennie: I took it to get its oil changed last week.

Bobby: Oh, well, it needs it again.

Jennie: No, it doesn’t. I just checked the level an hour ago, and it was fine. What’s going on? Why are you acting so strangely? Are you trying to pull a fast one?

Bobby: Okay, you caught me. I was sneaking out to meet your best friend, so we could plan a surprise baby shower for you.

Jennie: That’s so sweet!

pulling a fast oneTwo friends are discussing how one of them has been trying to buy a car.

Andrew: Any luck with buying a new car yet?

Aaron: No, not yet. I finally decided what car I wanted, but I haven’t found the right seller. I did meet one guy who posted an ad online. I contacted him through email, and he offered me a good value for the car. However, when I showed up, he raised the price by two thousand dollars!

Andrew: Wow! That’s suspicious.

Aaron: I know! That’s why I accused him of trying to pull a fast one on me and refused to buy it.

More Examples

This excerpt is a company that is using various tactics to avoid paying its workers.

  • “This payout is an attempt by Uber to pull a fast one to avoid court oversight and shortchange drivers in the process,” said Desai, whose organization has filed several lawsuits against the San Francisco-based company. –LA Times

The second excerpt is about a journalist who didn’t think he had to explain that he was interviewing fake characters.

  • He took me to task for trying to pull a fast one on my readers by claiming to interview people who were more dead than alive. He said he read the introduction to my interview more than once, thinking that perhaps he missed the clues that would point to a spoof or a tongue-in-cheek article, rather than a fact-based interview. –OC Register


The phrase pull a fast one means to trick or cheat someone.