Understanding the Idiom: "rub the fear of God into" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English

The Origins of “Rub the Fear of God Into”

Like many idioms, the exact origin of “rub the fear of God into” is unknown. However, it likely stems from religious teachings that emphasize obedience and reverence towards a higher power. The phrase itself implies a forceful action – rubbing something in can be painful or uncomfortable – which adds an element of severity to its use.

Usage Examples

“Rubbing the fear of God into” someone can be done through various means, including physical punishment or verbal reprimands. Here are some examples:

– After getting caught stealing from his employer, John’s boss rubbed the fear of God into him by threatening to call the police.

– When her children misbehaved at church, Sarah’s mother would rub the fear of God into them by giving them stern looks and whispering warnings.

– The coach rubbed the fear of God into his players before their big game by reminding them how much was at stake.

In each example, there is a clear intent to create feelings of intimidation or awe in another person.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “rub the fear of God into”

The idiom “rub the fear of God into” is a common phrase used in English language to describe an action that instills great fear or respect in someone. However, the origins and historical context of this idiom are not widely known.

The phrase can be traced back to religious texts where it was believed that only by fearing God could one achieve salvation. The concept of instilling fear in people as a means to control them has been prevalent throughout history. In ancient times, rulers would often use fear tactics to maintain their power over their subjects.

In more recent times, the phrase has been used figuratively to describe situations where someone attempts to scare or intimidate another person. It is often used in situations where a person wants to make sure that someone understands the gravity of a situation.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “rub the fear of God into”

When it comes to idioms, their usage can vary greatly depending on the context in which they are used. The same is true for the idiom “rub the fear of God into”. This phrase is often used to describe a situation where someone is trying to instill a sense of fear or respect into another person. However, there are many variations and nuances to this idiom that make it an interesting topic for discussion.

One common variation of this idiom is “putting the fear of God into someone”. This version emphasizes the idea that someone is actively trying to scare or intimidate another person in order to get them to behave differently. Another variation might be “instilling a healthy dose of fear”, which suggests that some level of fear can actually be beneficial in certain situations.

It’s also worth noting that this idiom can be used both positively and negatively. For example, a coach might use it positively when motivating their team before a big game by saying something like, “I’m going to rub the fear of God into you so you’re ready to give it your all.” On the other hand, someone might use it negatively when threatening another person with violence or harm.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “rub the fear of God into”


– Instill a sense of dread

– Terrify

– Intimidate

– Scare witless

– Strike terror into


– Soothe fears

– Calm nerves

– Reassure

– Comfort

Cultural Insights:

The phrase “fear of God” has religious connotations, so it’s important to consider cultural contexts when using this idiom. In Western cultures with Christian traditions, invoking the fear of God can be a powerful way to motivate someone or make them think twice about their actions. However, in other cultures where religion plays a less prominent role or has different beliefs about punishment and reward, this idiom may not have as much impact.

It’s also worth noting that using this idiom too frequently or aggressively can come across as threatening or manipulative. It’s important to use it judiciously and with sensitivity to your audience.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “rub the fear of God into”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

In this exercise, you will fill in the blanks with appropriate words from the given options. The sentences will contain the idiom “rub the fear of God into.”

  1. The coach decided to ___________ his players after their poor performance.
  2. My parents used to ___________ me whenever I misbehaved as a child.
  3. The teacher wanted to ___________ her students before their final exams.

Exercise 2: Create Your Own Sentences

In this exercise, you will create your own sentences using the idiom “rub the fear of God into.” You can use any situation or context that comes to mind. This exercise will help you understand how and when to use this idiom correctly.


– Use different verb tenses

– Try different sentence structures

– Use synonyms for “fear” and “God”

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “Instill Fear”

When using idioms in conversation or writing, it’s important to understand their meanings and usage. One such idiom is “instill fear”, which means to make someone afraid or scared. However, there are some common mistakes that people make when using this idiom.

Avoiding Literal Interpretation

The first mistake people often make is taking the idiom too literally. It’s important to remember that idioms are figurative expressions, meaning they should not be taken at face value. So when using “instill fear”, don’t actually try to put fear into someone physically!

Using Correct Prepositions

Another mistake is incorrect use of prepositions. The correct preposition for this idiom is “into”. So instead of saying “rub the fear of God on someone”, say “rub the fear of God into someone”. This may seem like a small detail, but it can greatly affect how well your message comes across.

Mistake Correction
Rubbing fear on someone Rubbing fear into someone
Taking the idiom literally Understanding its figurative meaning
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