Snake in the Grass

Meaning of Idiom ‘Snake in the Grass’

A snake in the grass is a deceitful, treacherous and sneaky person; one who pretends to be your friend while actually being your enemy in secret. 1Ammer, Christine.  American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary]. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.


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Examples Of Use

“Don’t trust Alex. He may pretend to be your friend but he’s a snake in the grass who wants your job.”

“I can’t believe she’s been seeing my ex-boyfriend this whole time while pretending to be my friend. She’s just a snake in the grass.”

“He hated you all these years and now you’re his best friend? Don’t you suspect he’s a snake in the grass looking to get close to you so he can hurt you even worse?”

Snake in the grass idiom meaning

Origin

Alluding to a poisonous serpent hidden in tall grass, this metaphor was used as early as 37 B.C. by the Roman poet Virgil:

“Qui legitis flores et humi nascientia fraga,
frigidus, o pueri, fugite hinc, latet anguis in herba.”

This translates to “You boys that pick flowers and strawberries near the ground, run away from here, a cold snake hides in the grass.”

In English, it first appeared as the title of a book by Charles Leslie in 1696: Snake in the Grass: or, Satan Transformed into an Angel of Light.

Snake in the Grass by Charles Leslie title page, 1696

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine.  American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary]. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.