What Does Take the Cake Mean?

Take the Cake Meaning

Definition: Is the winner; is the best/most surprising example of something.

Origin of Take the Cake

Sources list two possible origins for this expression. The first possibility is quite old, and puts the origin at around the year 400 B.C. Ancient Greeks used this expression to show victory or prize winning.

Apparently, in ancient Greece, a cake was awarded to whoever best stayed awake during the all-night party. The expression was later expanded to include any prize winning. In 411 B.C., the playwright Aristophanes wrote “In craftiness we take the cake.”

The phrase was revived, possibly independently from the original phrase, in the 1800s when referring to the practice of cakewalking.

In a cakewalk, winners were awarded a cake. Participating couples, usually African Americans, walked around and around a cake, and the couple that was deemed most graceful was awarded the cake.

Examples of Take the Cake

take the cake idiom This example shows two coworkers who are complaining about their boss.

Regina: Ginny, I don’t like complaining, but our boss is just too ridiculous.

Ginny: I know. He always forgets what he tells you. Do you remember that time he approved my vacation and then got mad because I went on?

Regina: Yeah, that was pretty silly. There was that other time that he thought my son was my husband.

Ginny: Yeah, I don’t know how he could make that mistake. He also thought dead-end streets were streets leading to cemeteries.

Regina: Yeah, those are all ridiculous things he’s done, but the last thing he did really takes the cake.

Ginny: What was that?

Regina: He just tried to eat an avocado pit because he thought it was a tomato. How could anyone possibly think that?

we take the cakeIn this example, two friends are talking about a fight one of them had with his sister.

Kevin: Let’s go have a drink. I need something to calm me down after talking with my sister.

Steve: Okay, but what happened?

Kevin: My sister called me unsuccessful.

Steve: That’s not true. I think you’re very successful.

Kevin: I know I am. It still makes me angry though. First of all, I’m an experienced doctor. Second of all, I’m also accomplished in many other areas outside of my job. For example, I’m a great ice skater! But what really takes the cake is that she said I was unsuccessful because I owed the bank a lot of money for a loan. The only reason I took out that loan was to pay for her university degree!

Steve: That’s terrible!

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression to describe the winner of the silliest moment of a famous TV character. The character dressed up as an armadillo.

  • Ross did a lot of “goofy” (aka, stupid) things during the 10 seasons of ‘Friends,’ but this one takes the cake. –USA Today

This excerpt uses the expression to describe an unusual guess for who would win a basketball championship.

  • At some point in our lifetime, we’ve seen bold office NCAA bracket predictions that made us scratch our heads. This one certainly takes the cake. –USA Today

Summary

The idiom takes the cake is a superlative expression that means the best (or worst) example of something, or the most extreme example of something.

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