Get the sack


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Get the sack'?

Be dismissed from a job.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Get the sack'?

The probable derivation of this phrase is an allusion to tradesmen, who owned their own tools and took them with them in a bag or sack when they were dismissed from employment.

It has been known in France since the 17th century, as ‘On luy a donné son sac’. The first recorded English version is in Charles Westmacott’s The English Spy, 1825:

“You munna split on me, or I shall get the zack for telling on ye.”

In his 1869 A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words, John Hotten records these alternatives – ‘get the bag’ (from the North of England) and ‘get the empty’ (from London).

See also, the order of the boot.

Trend of get the sack in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.