Dish Out or Dish it Out

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Dish out (something): To give out something (advice, praise, favors, insults, criticism, information, etc.) in large amounts. The idiom is normally used in a critical sense and it is often negative things that are "dished out."

Dish it out: To dispense insults or abuse.

Although the idioms dish out and dish it out have similar meanings, the meaning and use of the latter is more specific.

Compare to Dish the Dirt.

Usage Examples for 'Dish Out'

"He's one of those investors who will dish out advice for hours but will never write a check."

"After he's done dishing out abuse to his servants, he likes to have a liquid lunch on the terrace."

Usage Example for 'Dish it Out'

This idiom is often used as the whole expression "(someone) can dish it out but they can't take it."

"All you have to do is stand up to Tom. He can dish it out but he can't take it."

"The workers thought the new guy was a pushover, but it turns out he can dish it out with the best of them."


The first idiom, according to some sources, would seem to be much older, but earlier uses of the expression 'dish out,' from the 1800's and earlier, had a different meaning. In the culinary sense, it meant "to trim," and in a broader sense, it meant to "adorn or decorate."

Both idioms are probably from the 1920's or 1930's. Dish alludes to serving food from a dish. In the second idiom, the 'it' always refers to insults, abuse, punishment, or something similar.

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