Not intended seriously; jocular or humorous.


  • This phrase alludes to the facial expression created by putting one's tongue in one's cheek.
  • The term first appeared in print in Walter Scott's 1828 Fair Maid of Perth: "The fellow who gave this all-hail thrust his tongue in his cheek to some scapegraces like himself."
  • It isn't entirely clear that Scott was using the phrase with the modern, rather than a literal, sense. A later citation from Richard Barham's 1845 The Ingolds by Legends is unambiguous:

He gave a tongue-in-cheek explanation of why the sky was blue, offering a theory about some primordial discount on light blue paint.

Submitted on September 01, 2009

Additional definitions for 'tongue-in-cheek':

Tongue-in-CheekEnvisioned in an humorous way; not much of seriousness; dishonest; mocking
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