Twist Someone’s Arm

To twist someone’s arm, in literal terms, means to pull someone’s arm up behind their back toward their shoulders in order to hurt them, restrain them or force them to comply. When someone’s arm is held in this way with enough force, it is very painful and can cause the shoulder joint to dislocate. Thus, a person in such a position will be compelled to comply with the wishes of the restrainer, including moving in whatever direction they are pushed.

Meaning of Idiom ‘Twist Someone’s Arm’

To twist someone’s arm means to try very hard to convince or persuade someone; to try to persuade someone to do something that they are reluctant to do or that you think they are reluctant to do; to coerce or cajole.

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Twist someone’s arm is used in many different ways. For example, it may be used to describe how someone forcefully persuaded someone else to do something.

However, today it is more often used in a tongue in cheek or humorous way, especially when inviting someone to do something pleasant or when someone tries to convince someone to do something that doesn’t really require convincing.

Examples Of Use

“I didn’t want to go out to dinner but my wife twisted my arm by reminding me that I had already promised Jackie I would come.”

“Do you think he’ll endorse me?” asked the candidate. “Well, it may take a little arm twisting but I think he’ll get on board,” said the campaign manager.

“Why don’t you have a drink and stay for a while?” asked Harold. “Okay, you’ve twisted my arm, I’ll have that drink,” replied Lester.

“I’d love it if you’d let me cook dinner for you. Can I twist your arm?”


This idiom has been used since the 1900s, based on the literal meaning of ‘twist someone’s arm.’

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