A Likely Story

Meaning Of Idiom ‘A Likely Story’

When someone says “a likely story” they mean that they do not believe what someone else has said; used to express disbelief of a story, excuse, explanation, etc. 1Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995. ,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms]. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

Usage

This expression is used ironically and with a fair amount of scorn but it is sometimes used in a more lighthearted way.

Examples Of Use

“I’m sorry I was late for work, the traffic was very bad,” said Graham. “A likely story!” said his boss.

“I didn’t tell Vicky your secret! She guessed!” said Francis. “That’s a likely story,” replied Melissa.

“Those reports are going to be late, the computers are down,” said Tom. “A huh, a likely story,” said Peter, grinning. “No, really, I.T. is working on them right now!” said Tom.

Origin

The phrase a likely story has been used since at least the 1600s but in a literal sense, to describe a story that is credible. It did not begin to be used ironically, to express the opposite meaning, until later, perhaps the early 1800s.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms]. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.