To Be Onion Skinned: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
October 30, 2023

The phrase "to be onion-skinned" is a colloquial expression describing someone overly sensitive or easily offended by criticisms, comments, or actions.

In short:

"To be onion skinned" refers to a person who is overly sensitive or quick to take offense.

What Does “To Be Onion Skinned” Mean?

The phrase "to be onion skinned" is used to describe someone who is extremely sensitive or easily hurt by criticism.

Here are the main aspects of its meaning:

  • Being easily upset or offended.
  • Having a lack of resilience to criticism or harsh words.
  • Showing emotional vulnerability similar to the thin layers of an onion.

Where Does “To Be Onion Skinned” Come From?

The phrase "to be onion-skinned" refers to being overly sensitive or easily offended, and its etymological roots offer some interesting insights. The term "onion skin" dates back to the early 1600s, with the Oxford English Dictionary citing its earliest known use in 1616. However, the idiomatic use of "onion-skinned" to describe sensitivity is commonly found in Southeast Asian English. Specifically, it is a translation of the Tagalog phrase "balat sibuyas," which means "onion-skinned." In Filipino culture, hypersensitive people are often referred to as "balat-sibuyas," emphasizing how easily the skin of an onion comes off, symbolizing emotional vulnerability.

10 Examples of “To Be Onion Skinned” in Sentences

Here are some sentences to help you understand how "to be onion-skinned" can be used in different contexts:

  • John is so onion-skinned that he can’t handle any criticism about his work.
  • Being onion-skinned in the world of social media can be quite challenging.
  • She is not onion-skinned and handles negative comments very well.
  • It's not good to be onion-skinned when working in a creative field.
  • He has become more onion-skinned following the recent events.
  • Despite her experience, she remains onion-skinned about her performances.
  • People who are onion-skinned find it hard to thrive in high-pressure jobs.
  • Being onion-skinned does not mean a person is weak, but they may need to develop a thicker skin to handle criticism better.
  • She advised her friend not to be so onion-skinned about people’s opinions.
  • It's prime time for him to stop being onion-skinned and face the world with more courage.

Examples of “To Be Onion Skinned” in Pop Culture

The phrase "to be onion skinned" is not as common in pop culture as it is in casual conversation, but it can be found in a few examples:
  • An article in Herald Express mentions that officials and their families should not be too "onion skinned," reminding them to be less sensitive.
  • A List Apart includes an article titled "Onion Skinned Drop Shadows," which discusses the use of onion skinning in animation.
  • A Reddit post discusses the Philippine administration's "onion skinned" reaction to a U.S. TV show's portrayal of an "unconventional" Philippine president.
  • In the IMDb reviews for "Juan Tamad Goes to Congress," the term "onion skinned" appears, describing officials sensitive to the film's content.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say “To Be Onion Skinned"

Several other ways exist to express the concept of being "onion-skinned."

Here are a few synonyms:

  • Thin-skinned
  • Overly sensitive
  • Easily offended
  • Touchy

Each term might have nuances, but they all refer to individuals easily hurt or offended by criticism or harsh words.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About “To Be Onion Skinned”:

  • What does "to be onion-skinned" mean?

It refers to someone who is overly sensitive or easily offended by criticism or harsh words.

  • Where did the term "to be onion-skinned" originate?

It is believed to derive from the literal thin and delicate layers of an onion, symbolizing vulnerability.

  • Is being "onion-skinned" always a bad thing?

No, sensitivity is not inherently bad, but excessive sensitivity can be challenging in handling criticism or conflict.

  • How can one stop being "onion-skinned"?

Building resilience, and self-confidence, and learning to handle criticism positively can help.

  • Can being "onion-skinned" affect mental health?

Yes, being overly sensitive can lead to stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  • Is "to be onion skinned" used worldwide?

Yes, the concept is understood worldwide, though the idiom may vary in different languages.

  • Can "onion-skinned" individuals succeed in high-pressure jobs?

Yes, with the right coping strategies and support, they can succeed in any field.

  • Does society view "onion-skinned" people negatively?

It can, but societal views are changing to be more understanding of emotional sensitivity.

  • Are "onion-skinned" people more empathetic?

Often, yes. Sensitivity can correlate with higher levels of empathy and understanding.

  • Is it important to be aware if someone is "onion-skinned"?

Yes, awareness can lead to more compassionate and effective communication.

Final Thoughts About “To Be Onion Skinned”

"Onion skinned," is a common trait that many individuals possess. It's crucial to approach such individuals with empathy and understanding. While the idiom often carries a negative connotation, it's essential to remember that everyone has different sensitivity and emotional resilience levels.

  • It refers to individuals who are easily upset or offended.
  • Understanding and empathy are crucial in communicating with onion-skinned individuals.
  • Building resilience can help in handling criticism better.
  • Being aware of one's sensitivity allows for personal growth and improved relationships.

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