Understanding the Idiom: "in someone's pocket" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The idiom “in someone’s pocket” is a commonly used phrase in English language. It refers to a situation where one person has complete control or influence over another person, usually due to financial or personal reasons. This idiom can be used in various contexts such as business, politics, and personal relationships.

When someone is said to be “in someone’s pocket”, it means that they are under their complete control or influence. This could mean that the person is being manipulated or exploited for their own benefit. The phrase can also refer to situations where one person has significant power over another due to financial dependence.

Understanding this idiom is important because it helps us recognize when we may be in a vulnerable position with regards to our relationships or finances. By recognizing these situations, we can take steps to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “in someone’s pocket”

The idiom “in someone’s pocket” is a common expression used to describe a person who has complete control or influence over another individual. This phrase can be traced back to ancient times when people carried small pouches or pockets on their clothing to store personal items such as money, keys, or other valuables.

Over time, the meaning of this phrase evolved to refer to individuals who were easily influenced or controlled by others, much like an item in a pocket. The use of this idiom became more widespread during the 19th century and was commonly used in literature and everyday conversation.

The Influence of Politics

The idiom “in someone’s pocket” also has strong ties to politics. During the early days of democracy, wealthy individuals would often bribe politicians with money in exchange for political favors. This practice led to accusations that certain politicians were “in the pockets” of these wealthy donors.

Modern Usage

In modern times, the idiom “in someone’s pocket” is still commonly used in both formal and informal settings. It is often used to describe situations where one person has significant power over another individual or group.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “in someone’s pocket”

The idiom “in someone’s pocket” is a commonly used expression in English that refers to a person who has complete control over another person or situation. This phrase can be used in various contexts, such as business, politics, and personal relationships.

Variations of the Idiom

Although the basic meaning of the idiom remains the same, there are several variations that can be used depending on the context. For example:

  • “In his/her back pocket” – implies that someone has complete control over another person without them realizing it.
  • “In your pocketbook” – refers to having financial control over someone.
  • “In their hip pocket” – suggests that one person has a close relationship with another and can influence them easily.

Usage Examples

Here are some examples of how this idiom can be used in everyday conversations:

Business Context:

“The CEO always had the board members in his back pocket.”

Political Context:

“It was clear that the lobbyist had all of Congress in his hip pocket.”

Personal Relationship Context:

“She knew she had him wrapped around her little finger and he was completely in her pocketbook.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “in someone’s pocket”

Exploring idioms can be a fascinating way to gain insight into the cultural nuances of a language. When it comes to the idiom “in someone’s pocket,” there are many synonyms and antonyms that can help us better understand its meaning and usage.


Some common synonyms for “in someone’s pocket” include:

  • Under someone’s control
  • In someone’s grasp
  • In cahoots with someone
  • Aligned with someone’s interests
  • On board with someone


If we want to explore the opposite of being “in someone’s pocket,” we might consider these antonyms:

  • Independent
  • Unaligned
  • Distant from influence or control
  • Free from manipulation or coercion

The use of this idiom may vary depending on cultural context. For example, in some cultures, being “in someone’s pocket” may connote corruption or unethical behavior, while in others it may simply imply close alignment or loyalty. Understanding these nuances is key to effective communication across cultures.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “in someone’s pocket”

Exercise 1: Identify Contextual Meanings

To understand the idiom “in someone’s pocket”, it is essential to identify its contextual meanings. In this exercise, read various sentences containing the phrase and determine its meaning in each context. Write down your observations and discuss them with a partner or a group.


– John always agrees with his boss. He must be in his boss’s pocket.

Meaning: John is under his boss’s control or influence.

Exercise 2: Create Your Own Sentences

In this exercise, create your own sentences using the idiom “in someone’s pocket”. Use different contexts such as politics, business, relationships, etc. Share your sentences with others and ask them to guess their meanings.


– The new mayor seems to be in the pockets of big corporations.

Meaning: The new mayor is influenced by big corporations rather than serving the public interest.

  • The CEO has all board members in her pocket.
  • I think my ex-girlfriend still has me in her pocket.
  • The senator denied being in anyone’s pocket during his speech.

Exercise 3: Role Play Activity

In this exercise, divide into pairs or groups and act out scenarios where one person has another person “in their pocket.” This activity will help you practice using idioms naturally while also developing communication skills.


Person A – Boss

Person B – Employee

Boss: I need you to finish that report by tomorrow morning.

Employee: But it’s a lot of work. I don’t think I can do it.

Boss: Come on, you owe me one. Remember, I have you in my pocket.

Meaning: The boss has control over the employee and can use this to get them to do what they want.

These practical exercises will help you improve your understanding and usage of the idiom “in someone’s pocket”. Practice regularly to make sure that using idioms becomes second nature for you.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “in someone’s pocket”

When using idioms, it is important to use them correctly in order to convey your message accurately. The idiom “in someone’s pocket” is commonly used in English language, but there are some common mistakes that people make when using this phrase.

Mistake 1: Taking the Idiom Literally

The idiom “in someone’s pocket” does not mean that a person is actually inside someone else’s pocket. It means that a person is under another person’s control or influence. Therefore, taking this idiom literally can lead to confusion and miscommunication.

Mistake 2: Using the Idiom Out of Context

Another mistake people make when using the idiom “in someone’s pocket” is using it out of context. This can happen when the idiom is used in situations where it doesn’t fit or isn’t appropriate. For example, if you use this idiom while discussing a financial transaction with your boss, it may come across as inappropriate and unprofessional.

To avoid these common mistakes when using the idiom “in someone’s pocket”, be sure to understand its meaning and use it appropriately in context. Doing so will help you communicate effectively and avoid any misunderstandings.

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