1. A boxing term. It refers to a boxer who unfairly strikes their opponent below the waist.
2. Something said that is considered inappropriate, insulting, or too personal.
The Origin Of ‘Hit Below The Belt’
Sometimes, a person might say something that is described as a “low blow” or a “hit below the belt.” This usually means they said something that was inappropriate, unfair, or uncalled for. How did this saying acquire such a meaning and where did it come from?
This expression probably comes from boxing because it is against the rules for boxers to hit their opponent anywhere below the belt area. So if a boxer ignored the rules and did this, it would be considered unfair. Thus, it seems likely that this expression got its start in boxing and then later it became an idiom for when a person says something that was uncalled for. The person’s words are like punches that are figuratively hitting “below the belt.”
Anyway, the earliest I could find this expression in print is the mid 19th century. As the following quote shows, it was indeed a term used in fighting/boxing. This example is from the Bell’s Life In London And Sporting Chronicle newspaper, 1841:
“In the second round Smith, in the act of striking, stumbled forward, and his blew went below the belt of his antagonist.”
- Wilson was frustrated because he was having difficulty losing weight. His friend later made an insensitive joke about the situation and Wilson didn’t like it; he thought his attempt at humor was a hit below the belt.