Brush It Under the Carpet: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 17, 2023

The saying "brush it under the carpet" is often used when someone wants to ignore or hide a problem instead of facing it. The idea is that you're taking an issue and metaphorically sweeping it under the rug as if that could make it go away. It's a way of avoiding dealing with something you'd rather not confront. This can be used for minor issues, major problems, personal matters, or public concerns.

In short:

  • It means to ignore or hide a problem instead of dealing with it.
  • This phrase can refer to small or large issues, personal or public.

What Does "Brush It Under the Carpet" Mean?

The phrase "brush it under the carpet" is about avoiding the problem. When someone uses this phrase, they usually mean that they—or someone else—are dodging a situation instead of facing it head-on. It's like pretending something isn't there, hoping it'll go away on its own.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • "Brush it under the carpet" means that someone is ignoring a problem or issue.
  • It’s often used when someone wants to avoid facing a difficult situation.
  • The phrase suggests a lack of action or even willful avoidance.
  • People may use it to call out this avoidance in themselves or others.
  • Common phrases that mean something similar include "turning a blind eye," "sweep it under the rug," and "ignoring the elephant in the room.

Where Does "Brush It Under the Carpet" Come From?

The phrase "brush under the carpet" is a variant of the more commonly used idiom "sweep under the rug" or "sweep under the carpet." The idiom generally means trying to hide or keep a problem secret instead of dealing with it. It can refer to hiding a secret, an embarrassing fact, or even literal dust. The idiom "sweep under the rug" or "sweep under the carpet" came into use in the early 1900s. It was born out of the idea of a maid or homekeeper lazily sweeping the dirt under the rug rather than going through the work to clean up the dust.

Historical Example

"And he did not attempt to brush under the carpet the terrible responsibilities of informing, even when a loyalty higher than that of..."

- Lament for a Generation by Ralph de Toledano, 1960

10 Examples of "Brush It Under the Carpet" in Sentences

To make it easier for you to understand when and how to use this phrase, here are some examples from different situations:

  • Brushing the expense under the carpet would not be difficult if the money were well spent.
  • He knew his grades were terrible but chose to brush it under the carpet instead of telling his parents.
  • Despite the apparent issues in their relationship, they both decided to brush it under the carpet.
  • Management brushed the safety concerns under the carpet to avoid negative publicity.
  • The politician tried to brush the scandal under the carpet, but the news got out anyway.
  • Sleep tight tonight; we'll brush that problem under the carpet for the time being.
  • He kept making mistakes at work and brushing them under the carpet, hoping no one would notice.
  • I see the bigger picture and understand the implications, so let's not brush this important issue under the carpet.
  • We're already behind schedule, and brushing our delays under the carpet won't help us catch up.
  • Before we can effectively iron out the kinks in the project, we need to address the lingering issues we've previously tried to brush under the carpet.

Examples of "Brush It Under the Carpet" in Pop Culture

The phrase has popped up in movies, shows, and literature, usually highlighting the act of ignoring or hiding problems.

Here are some instances:

  • A quote from the 2015 book The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas: "... brush under the carpet an accusation of a referee swearing at an injured player while he lay on the floor with a broken foot."
  • A quote from the book No Nonsense International Development by Maggie Black: "Campaigning techniques, particularly since the rise of social media, have helped bring out into the open issues that governments prefer to brush under the carpet - slavery, for example, and human trafficking. "
  • "Under the Carpet" is a Nigerian movie directed by Tope Alake and starring Tosin Abiola, Tana Adelana, and Roxy Antak.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Brush It Under the Carpet"

You can use different phrases that mean almost the same thing as "brush it under the carpet."

Here they are:

  • Ignoring the issue
  • Turning a blind eye
  • Sweeping it under the rug
  • Hiding the problem
  • Overlooking it
  • Putting it out of sight
  • Dodging the issue
  • Avoiding the topic
  • Evading the matter
  • Pretending it doesn't exist

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Brush It Under the Carpet":

  • What does "brush it under the carpet" mean?

"Brush it under the carpet" means to ignore a problem or issue, usually one that's pretty obvious, hoping that it'll go away or won't get noticed.

  • How can I use "brush it under the carpet" in a sentence?

You can use it to point out that someone is ignoring a problem or not dealing with something they should be. For example: "He knew the project was failing, but he decided to brush it under the carpet."

  • Is it ever okay to "brush it under the carpet"?

Generally, it's not a good idea. Ignoring a problem usually doesn't make it go away and can even make things worse in the long run.

  • Who usually uses this expression?

It's a common phrase and can be used by anyone to describe situations where problems are being ignored, either in personal life or at work.

  • Does "brush it under the carpet" have a negative connotation?

Yes, it often does. It implies that someone is avoiding responsibility by not dealing with a problem.

  • Can it be used humorously?

While the phrase usually has a serious or negative connotation, it can be used humorously to lighten the mood in certain situations.

  • Is it common in workplace settings?

It can be heard in the workplace, especially when discussing overlooked issues or ignored responsibilities.

  • Is it a modern expression?

It's been around for a while and isn't specific to any particular time period.

  • Does it have any synonyms?

Yes, similar phrases include "sweep it under the rug," "turn a blind eye," and "ignore the elephant in the room."

  • Is it used globally or just in specific regions?

It's most common in English-speaking countries but the idea of ignoring problems rather than facing them is universal.

Final Thoughts About "Brush It Under the Carpet"

The phrase "brush it under the carpet" serves as a warning against avoiding problems or shirking responsibilities. Recognizing when this idiom is being used can give you insight into someone's mindset—they might be taking the easy way out by ignoring issues.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Brush it under the carpet" often suggests avoiding an issue rather than tackling it head-on.
  • It's a phrase that can be heard in various settings, from personal conversations to workplace discussions.
  • Ignoring problems rarely solves them, and this phrase serves as a reminder to face challenges rather than avoid them.

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