Glossary Home Idioms

A taste of your own medicine

“A taste of your own medicine” is an English idiom that’s used to describe one person’s desire for another to experience something negative.

This is the same negative thing they’ve been inflicting on others. If someone gets a taste of their own medicine, they might realize how they’ve been acting or treating others and change. “A taste of your medicine” was first used in print in the late 1800s and has since become incredibly popular.

A taste of your own medicine explained


Meaning of “A taste of your own medicine”

“A taste of your own medicine” is an interesting idiom that suggests that one person should receive the same poor treatment they’ve been giving to others.

The use of the word “medicine” is entirely metaphorical. It’s a stand-in for whatever behavior “you” have been engaging in. It could be greed, jealousy, mistreatment of another’s possessions, rudeness, disrespect, and so on.

When to Use “A taste of your own medicine”

It’s possible to use “a taste of your own medicine” in a wide variety of situations. The phrase is negative, meaning that when it’s used, it’s used to convey a negative sentiment or wish ill upon someone else. It would be easy to use in a conversation with a friend or family member about an enemy.

For example, someone might wish that a rude customer they had to deal with at their job got a “taste of their own medicine” or was treated the same way they treated the friend. This might, in an ideal world, make them change their behavior.

Or, in another scenario, an employee who was passed over by their boss for a raise might wish the same, a “taste of their own medicine” on the employer. They would be hoping that the employer missed out on a raise as well.

Example Sentences

  • You better be careful, or you’re going to get a taste of your own medicine.
  • Did you hear what happened? The boss finally got a taste of his own medicine!
  • If the world was fair, all these people would get a taste of their own medicine.
  • It’s wishful thinking to believe that anyone is going to get a taste of their own medicine here.


Why Do Writers Use “A taste of your own medicine?”

Writers use “a taste of your own medicine” in the same way and for the same reasons that people use the phrase in everyday conversations. This is a longer idiom, one that for some speakers and writers may not fit easily into dialogue. This is part of the reason why it’s less common to see the phrase used in writing. Like other idioms, this one has also become somewhat cliché. This means that it is no longer going to have the impact it used to when it was first being used in writing in the 1800s. Most readers know exactly what it means and won’t find its inclusion in a literary work interesting. Writers are liable to turn to another phrase that has a similar meaning and use those instead.

Origins

Some believe that the idea of getting a “taste of your own medicine” originates in one of Aesop’s fables. It could have come from the story of a scam artist or swindler who sold fake medicine and then is given his own medicine when he falls ill. Therefore, very clearly, getting a taste of his own medicine. This would also account for the tone with which this phrase is used.

One of the earliest expressions of the phrase can be found in Brought to the Gangway by William Legget. It was published in 1834 in The New York Mirror: A Weekly Gazette of Literature and the Fine Arts. The quote reads:

So, so! worse and worse—from insolence to mutiny! A mere dislocation at first—now a compound fracture. Hurry along here, boatswain’s-mate, and proceed to this young gentleman’s extremity — come, sir, you had better step quicker, or you may chance to get a dose of your own medicine.

Here, rather than the word “taste,” the author uses the word “dose.” This is quite common with the evolution of idioms. They often start with one phrasing, and over time, the words shift into the modern form. But, this quote conveys a similar feeling and has a similar purpose.

Another interesting example can be found in the New York Daily Tribune, published in 1842, only a few years after the previous example.

Well Pleb. [that is, The Plebeian, a rival newspaper] why don’t you take a dose of your own medicine, and publish and advocate the “regular candidates” nominated at Tammany Hall?

Again, “dose” is used rather than “taste.” The very first example, on record, of “taste” being used appears in 1859 in the Richmond [Virginia] Dispatch. The quote reads:

People of the South, will you not retaliate upon these men in their own kind? Will you not give them a taste of their own medicine?

Another good example appears one year later in the Cleveland Morning Leader. It reads:

The speech was finished amid the ferocious scowls of the disunion Democrats. A taste of their own medicine threw them into a paroxysm of rage. Perhaps it will teach them to be more circumspect hereafter in their assaults upon the people of the North.


FAQs

Why do people use “a taste of your own medicine?”

People use “a taste of your own medicine” when they want to express their bitterness over how they’ve been treated or how they’ve seen someone else treated. It’s a way of asking for the universe to treat everyone fairly by taking revenge on another person.

Is “a taste of your own medicine” good?

It’s not good to get “a taste of your own medicine.” The “medicine” in question is always something negative. It would mean that something rude or disrespectful you’ve been doing to others is then done to you.

How to use “a taste of your own medicine” in a sentence?

You can use “a taste of your own medicine” in different ways. You could say that you got “a taste of your own medicine” or that you hope someone else gets “a taste of their own medicine.”

What type of figure of speech is “a taste of your own medicine?”

“A taste of your own medicine” is an idiomatic metaphor. It uses “medicine” as a metaphor for any action “you” have taken that another person doesn’t like. This could be anything from rudeness to overprotectiveness.


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