Cry Wolf – Meaning, Origin | Phrases


The meaning of the phrase “cry wolf” is to lie. This phrase refers to a person who lies or complains about something even though no real problems are present.

Example: One of my employees called in sick today and said that he needed a few days off. While that might be true, I think he’s crying wolf and really just wants a little vacation.

Synonyms: false alarm

Cry wolf, an animal howling.

The Origin of ‘Cry Wolf’

The origin of the saying ‘cry wolf’ is believed to be from Aesop, a Greek fabulist who is said to have lived around the time of 620 to 560 BCE. He wrote a number of different fables known collectively as Aesop’s Fables.

One of the stories credited to his name is called The Boy Who Cried Wolf. This story tells of a young boy who was given the responsibility of watching over some sheep for the night. The boy eventually grew bored with his assignment and thought it would be rather humorous if he pretended to be in danger, so he started to cry “wolf, wolf!” His plan worked, as the people nearby heard his cries for help and came rushing to lend their support. But they soon learned it was all a silly ruse. 

After this repeated a few more times, the people stopped listening to the boy. They no longer responded to him when they heard him yelling. Later, a real wolf showed up! Now the boy and the sheep were in actual danger, so he started to cry for help. But it was too late, because nobody would listen to him any longer.

The moral of the The Boy Who Cried Wolf story is that when someone constantly lies, they lose the trust of others. Thus, the phrase ‘crying wolf’ is thought to have originated from this story; it references the lying boy.

Example Sentences For ‘Cry Wolf’

  • I thought my wife was crying wolf after she kept yammering on about seeing a mouse in the kitchen, but when I checked for myself, I realized that she was telling the truth.
  • While I was at the coffee shop, I saw someone spill their drink on another person’s laptop while they were away. The person responsible tried convincing me to cry wolf, saying that I saw nothing, but I refused.

Similar Example:

  • When I smelled smoke, I thought my house was on fire, but it was a false alarm.

Tip: This phrase is an animal related idiom and we have others like it on this site. Actually, we have a list of animal phrases that you can check out if you want to see more. You’ll find phrases for dogs, cats, horses, birds, and more!