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Tongue in Cheek: Definition, Origin & Useful Examples in English

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Tongue in cheek meaning! What is the definition of “tongue in cheek”? This lesson below will provide the meaning, origin & synonyms list of this idiom with ESL printable infographic and useful example sentences.

Tongue in Cheek Meaning

Tongue in Cheek

What Does Tongue in Cheek Mean?

  • The idiom ‘tongue-in-cheek’ is used to imply that something is slyly humorous, ironic, jocular and intend to be understood as a joke, but with an act of being serious.
  • The tone or the context of the statement may make it to be taken seriously by the listener.

Tongue in Cheek Origin

  • The phrase has origins in 18th-century England, and it originally alludes to a common facial expression created by putting one’s tongue in one’s cheek and used to express contempt, but by 1842 had acquired its modern meaning.
  • The ironic usage originates with the idea of suppressed mirth—biting one’s tongue to prevent an outburst of laughter.
  • It may have been used to suppress laughter.

Example Sentences

  • He gave a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why the sky was blue, offering a theory about some primordial discount on light blue paint.
  • I love that kind of tongue-in-cheek wit.
  • The offer was made almost tongue-in-cheek.
  • Her latest play is a firmly tongue-in-cheek look at the world of advertising.
  • I think he was talking tongue-in-cheek.
  • Karen’s tongue-in-cheek interview was given half a page, and the Globe immediately asked her for more articles.
  • The way I use them is slightly tongue-in-cheek.
  • Corbett loved the brilliant logic delivered so tongue-in-cheek that only those who wished to take offence would be affronted.
  • This is not a merely tongue-in-cheek reaction to such arguments as that of Meillassoux.
  • This was said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there is a serious point to the question.
  • Were they written tongue-in-cheek, or with an underlying conviction?
  • This is all slightly tongue-in-cheek, I’d like to make that clear.
  • It is the trick of the big-stage musical number but applied to circus with finesse and much tongue-in-cheek humour.
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Tongue in Cheek Synonym

Tongue in Cheeck Synonyms List

Here is the list of synonyms for the expression “tongue in cheek” with useful example sentences in English:

  • Ironic
  • Joke
  • Mockery
  • Banter
  • Dalliance
  • Humorous
  • Don’t make me laugh!
  • Hilarity
  • One-liner
  • Waggish
  • Wit
  • Zany

Synonyms for Tongue in Cheek with Examples


  • The film is more of an ironic fantasy than a horror story.


  • Her precision became a standing joke with colleagues.


  • There was mockery now in those piercing blue eyes.


  • He considered himself a master of witty banter.


  • His humorous remark made everyone laugh.

Don’t make me laugh!

  • You’ll pay? Don’t make me laugh!


  • The announcement was greeted with much hilarity and mirth.


  • The book is witty and peppered with good one-liners.


  • He uses waggish humour to great effect.


  • He was known for his sharp wit.


  • Michael made us all laugh with his zany tricks.
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