What does “a slap on the wrist” mean? Learn how to use this expression and what it really means.

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In today’s lesson we’re going to talk about the idiom “A slap on the wrist.”
Literally, a slap on the wrist is this right here [slap].

So this is your wrist, it’s a part of your body and a slap is that movement right there, it’s you’re hitting.

So, literally you could give someone a slap on the wrist as a punishment, you know, maybe for a child who’s misbehaving in school or something.

But as an idiom “A slap on the wrist” has a different meaning, slightly different, that is.

It means that you are giving someone a very light punishment, or a very easy punishment, or a very
small punishment, in relation to the crime or in relation to the bad thing that this person did.

So, let’s say that for example, somebody robs a bank and they take a million dollars and they
are found guilty and the judge only sentences the man to six months in jail, something like that.

That’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a very light punishment.

So, he stole a million dollars, he deserves to be in jail longer than just a few months, right?

So, people would see that as a slap on the wrist.

A slap on the wrist can also be like a warning when you’re not even given any real punishment
at all.

Let’s say that the principal of a school is caught committing some kind of a crime or
maybe doing something inappropriate with one of the students.

So, let’s say that the school board just simply sent a letter to the principal warning him that this behavior is not acceptable
but not giving any real punishment or any kind of suspension at all.

This would also be a slap on the wrist; because he is not getting punished, he is just being warned.

We usually use this idiom with the words “get” or “give.” “Get” is like to receive.

To get a slap on the wrist, to receive a slap on the wrist.

Or, “give” to give a slap on the wrist.

So, remember, usually a slap on the wrist is seen as a negative thing because people are
expecting the person to get a harsher or a stronger punishment.

Well, I hope that this short video was helpful and that now you know the meaning of “A slap on
the wrist.”

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