We often come across various idioms in our daily conversations, and one such intriguing idiom is "play footsie." This phrase might sound playful, but what does it truly mean?
"Play footsie" refers to a flirtatious act of touching someone's foot under a table, often secretly. It can also mean to engage in covert or indirect cooperation with someone, especially in politics or business.
The phrase "play footsie" originally refers to a playful or flirtatious interaction where two people touch each other's feet under a table. This act is often done discreetly and is usually a sign of romantic or sexual interest between the parties involved. The phrase has evolved to take on a broader meaning. It is now also used metaphorically to describe covert or indirect cooperation or engagement between two parties, often in a political or business context.
The phrase “play footsie” is of American-English origin. It is a playful expression of sexual attraction, where one person secretly touches another person’s foot or ankle with their own, especially under a table. The term can also be used figuratively to describe having underhanded dealings with someone. The term “footsie” originated in 1944 and is derived from the word "foot." A similar term, “footie,” was also used in the same sense from 1935. The phrase “play footsie” has since been incorporated into the common language to describe the literal act of playful foot touching and the figurative act of secretive or dishonest dealings.
Understanding an idiom is one thing, but seeing it in action can truly help. Following are some sentences that incorporate "play footsie" in various contexts:
As you can see, the term can be used in both light-hearted and serious contexts.
Over the years, "play footsie" has made its mark in popular culture.
Here are some notable mentions:
There are several ways to convey "play footsie" without using the exact phrase. Here are some alternatives:
Each of these expressions can be used depending on the context and what you wish to emphasize.
It refers to a flirtatious act of touching someone's foot under a table or engaging in covert cooperation with someone.
The phrase first appeared in the 1940s in the United States.
It can be used in both positive (flirtatious) and negative (deceptive cooperation) contexts.
It's best to avoid it in very formal settings, but it can be used in informal or semi-formal writing.
While it's widely understood in English-speaking countries, it might not translate well in non-English cultures.
For example, "The two companies were suspected of playing footsie to control market prices."
Yes, the song "Footsie" by Wizzard is one such example.
The idiom specifically refers to the act of touching feet, which is more discreet than using hands, especially under a table.
Generally, “play footsie” is not used in professional or formal contexts. In its literal sense, it refers to a flirtatious gesture, which is not appropriate in professional settings.
Yes, “play footsie” can refer to non-romantic interactions. Beyond its original meaning of a flirtatious foot touch, it can also describe subtle, indirect cooperation between two parties, such as political or business entities, where there is a mutual, often secretive, benefit or goal.
The idiom "play footsie" holds a significant place in everyday language, showcasing the versatility of expression in English.