Understanding the Idiom: "take the piss" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: Possibly from piss-proud (“falsely presenting as successful”). In which case taking the piss out of would mean deflating their false pride, usually through disparagement or mockery. As the piss-proud metaphor became dated, taking the piss out of someone came to refer to disparagement or mockery itself, regardless of the pride of the subject. Eventually the shortened, intransitive form taking the piss became common.
  • extract the urine
  • take the mickey

When it comes to understanding idioms, it can be quite challenging for non-native speakers. One such idiom that may leave people scratching their heads is “take the piss”. This phrase is commonly used in British English and has a unique meaning that may not be immediately apparent to those unfamiliar with it.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “take the piss”

The idiom “take the piss” is a common expression in British English, often used to describe someone who is teasing or mocking another person. However, its origins and historical context are not widely known.

To understand where this phrase comes from, we must look back at the history of British slang. The use of vulgar language and obscene phrases has been prevalent in Britain for centuries, particularly among working-class communities. In fact, many popular expressions that we use today have their roots in these communities.

One theory suggests that “taking the piss” may have originated from the practice of urine testing during World War I. Soldiers were required to provide urine samples to test for various diseases such as diabetes and kidney problems. Some soldiers would try to cheat by diluting their urine with water or other liquids – a process known as “taking the piss.”

Another theory suggests that “taking the piss” may have evolved from an older expression: “pissing about.” This phrase was commonly used in Victorian England to describe someone who was wasting time or being lazy.

Regardless of its origins, it’s clear that “taking the piss” has become a staple of modern British slang. It’s often used humorously among friends and colleagues, but can also be seen as offensive when directed towards strangers or those outside one’s social circle.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “take the piss”

The idiom “take the piss” is a versatile phrase that can be used in various contexts. It is often used to describe situations where someone is teasing or mocking another person, but it can also be used to express disbelief or frustration.


There are several variations of this idiom, including:

“Taking the mickey” This variation is commonly used in British English and has a similar meaning to “taking the piss”.
“Taking the mick” This variation is also commonly used in British English and has a similar meaning to “taking the piss”.
“Extracting urine” This variation is less common but still conveys the same idea as “taking the piss”.

Usage Examples

The following examples demonstrate how this idiom can be used in different situations:

  • “I can’t believe you’re still wearing those shoes. Are you taking the piss?”
  • “He’s always taking the mickey out of me for my accent.”
  • “I think they’re extracting urine when they say they’ll finish this project by tomorrow.”
  • “She was taking the mick out of him for his terrible dancing skills.”
  • “I’m not sure if he’s serious or just taking the piss with that proposal.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “take the piss”


Word/Phrase Definition
Ribbing To tease or make fun of someone in a friendly manner
Joking around To engage in playful banter with someone
Pulling someone’s leg To tease or trick someone in a humorous way without intending to harm them.
Banter A lively and playful conversation between friends that involves teasing and joking around.


The opposite of “taking the piss” would be treating someone seriously and respectfully. Here are some antonyms:

  • Treating with respect/li>

Cultural Insights

“Taking the piss” is an idiomatic expression that has its roots in British culture. It is often used among friends and colleagues who have a close relationship with each other. However, it can also be considered rude if used towards strangers or people you don’t know very well. In some cases, “taking the piss” can be seen as a form of bonding and building camaraderie among friends.

It is important to note that this idiom may not be understood or used in other English-speaking countries, so it is best to use it with caution when speaking to people from different cultural backgrounds.

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “take the piss”

Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks

Read each sentence below and fill in the blank with an appropriate word or phrase that includes “take the piss”.

1. I can’t believe he’s ___________ me again.

2. She was ___________ when she said she wanted to marry a millionaire.

3. Don’t ___________, I’m not falling for your lies.

Exercise 2: Match meanings

Match each definition below with its corresponding phrase that includes “take the piss”.

1. To mock or ridicule someone

2. To deceive or trick someone

3. To behave arrogantly or disrespectfully

A) Take someone for a ride

B) Take liberties

C) Take the mickey

Exercise 3: Create your own sentences

Use “take the piss” in three original sentences of your own creation.


1. He’s always taking the piss out of his friends, but they know it’s all in good fun.

2. The boss really took the piss when he asked us to work overtime without pay.

3. I thought he was serious at first, but then I realized he was just taking the piss out of me.

By completing these exercises, you’ll be well on your way to mastering this popular British idiom!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “take the piss”

When using idioms in a language that is not your native tongue, it can be easy to make mistakes. The idiom “take the piss” is no exception. This expression has a specific meaning and usage, and if used incorrectly, it can lead to confusion or offense.

Using It Literally

The first mistake to avoid when using this idiom is taking it literally. “Take the piss” does not actually mean taking urine from someone or something. Instead, it means making fun of someone or mocking them in a lighthearted way.

Misusing Tone

Another common mistake is misusing tone when using this expression. Depending on how you say it, “take the piss” can come across as rude or aggressive instead of playful banter. It’s important to use an appropriate tone when using this idiom so that others understand your intent.


To avoid misunderstandings and awkward situations, it’s essential to use idioms correctly in any language. When using the phrase “take the piss,” remember not to take it literally and pay attention to your tone of voice. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to use this expression confidently and effectively.

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