Glossary Home Idioms

Cut some slack

“Cut some slack” is an idiom that’s used to refer to increased leniency, freedom, or forgiveness.

The phrase can be used in many different circumstances and is easily incorporated into conversations with almost anyone. It’s unclear where the phrase originated from, but there are several different compelling possibilities. 

Cut some slack meaning and examples

 

Meaning of “Cut some slack” 

“Cut some slack” refers to something one person does for another when the former decides not to judge them too harshly or provide them with more time/freedom.

It can be used to refer to additional allowances, more creative or economic freedom, a “break” from work, or forgiveness for an untoward action. “Slack” implies space, leniency, and freedom, and when it’s “cut” for somebody, the person doing the metaphorical cutting is letting the other have those things. 

 

When to use “Cut some slack” 

It’s possible to use “cut some slack” in a wide variety of situations. It can apply to almost any circumstance in which one person decides to forgive another’s behavior or give someone a second chance.

One might use the phrase as a way of telling someone that they’re being granted more freedom in one particular area than they previously had or are being forgiven for something they did. 

Usually, the phrase is used when someone has done something out of the ordinary and it’s easy to forgive them for their actions. One friend might use the phrase to inform another that everything is okay and they’re willing to “cut them some slack.” In another situation, an employer might tell a group of employees that she’s willing to “cut them some slack” after their work decreased.

In one possible scenario, a father might decide to cut his daughter some slack after she got in trouble, knowing that she has been stressed at school. Or, a friend might cut another some slack after they said something rude or snippy, knowing that they didn’t really mean it. 

 

Example Sentences 

  • Don’t you think we should cut him some slack? 
  • He took advantage of the fact that she cut him some slack. 
  • You have to be careful that they don’t take advantage of any slack you’re willing to cut them. 
  • It’s a classic example of one person cutting another some slack and regretting it in the end. 
  • I was so grateful when my friends cut me some slack and forgave me after my breakdown last week. 
  • It’s best to cut people some slack sometimes, everyone has a bad day. 
  • It only made sense to cut her some slack today after what happened to her. 

 

Why Do Writers Use “Cut some slack?” 

Writers use “cut some slack” in the same way and for the same reasons that the phrase is used in everyday conversations.

It’s quite easy to see how a colloquial phrase like this could make its way into a dialogue between two people. In order to make dialogue realistic, writers often use idioms such as this one. They should, in theory, make the writer’s dialogue more believable and easier to read. If the reader can connect on a personal level to what a character is saying they’re likely to enjoy the story more. 

 

Origins 

Like most idioms, this one has an uncertain origin. Some suggest that the phrase originated in sailing terminology and “slack” was used in reference to rope and giving some out, or letting some out when it was needed.

Others have suggested the phrase relates to coopers and the type of staves needed to build barrels. One, the “tight stave” and the other the “slack stave.” The latter was used for holding dry goods while the former was used for water. If this is true, it’s likely the phrase was used as a way of suggesting that someone should lower their expectations. 

Another possible explanation could be connected to the “slack,” or coal dust that’s leftover after the larger pieces of coal are removed. This is a low-quality material and much cheaper than lump coal. Other possible origins come from the world of masonry. 

It’s likely that this idiom evolved naturally over time, as they usually do, rather than being coined out of nowhere. Often, phrases like this have one initial, literal meaning and then change over time as more people, from different backgrounds, pick it up. The words can shift, as can the meaning. 

 

Related Idioms and Proverbs 

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