Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Meaning of “Cut the Painter” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Meaning of “Cut the Painter” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

Cut the Painter

“I’ll cut your painter for you; that is, cut you off.” —GROSE: Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785)

Nautical usage is responsible for this phrase, the metaphorical meaning of which is: to cut oneself, or be cut, away from an embarrassing attachment ; to be released from an undesirable alliance.

A sailor fastens his boat by a rope fixed to the bow, which he calls a “painter.” At the bow of the old-time wooden ship was another rope, called the “shank-painter”; its function being to secure the shank of the anchor to the ship’s side after it had been drawn up to its place at the “cathead.” The word “shank” means a leg; hence, to go on “shanks’ pony” means to walk.

The derivation of the nautical “painter” is dubious. It is probably the Old French “pentoir,” or “pendoir” (Latin: “pendere” ; Modern French, “pendre”), meaning to hang anything. This French word was introduced into England about the i4th century, in the form of “peyntour.” There were “bow-peyntours” and “shank-peyntours.” By the 57th century the word had become “penter.” An easy transition, in sailors’ speech, would make it “painter.”

In releasing a boat from its mooring, one usually “slips” the “painter.” In cases of grave emergency, to escape from the danger of capture, or of being submerged, sailors could not wait to untie a knot, nor even to effect the “slip.” Impatience in such a case is fully justified; and the quickest way to free the boat was to “cut the painter,” by a stroke from a cutlass, as Alexander cut the knot of Gordios with his sword.

The phrase has often been used, in other days, by politicians with reference to the wisdom of severing the tie between Great Britain and her Colonies; and, since the Great War, to Britain’s connection with the turbulent European Continent.


The main objective of this website is to provide quality study material to all students (from 1st to 12th class of any board) irrespective of their background as our motto is “Education for Everyone”. It is also a very good platform for teachers who want to share their valuable knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *