Telling someone to be quiet or to shut up.
Example: Blake was blaring loud music in his bedroom. Not only that, he was also singing along with it. His mother became fed up with all the racket her son was making, so she went and told him to put a sock in it.
In other words, Blake’s mom told him to stop making so much noise.
The Origin Of ‘Put a Sock In It’
The origin of this expression is unclear. Why is a sock being put in ‘it,’ and what does the ‘it’ in the phrase refer to anyways? While it may have been different when the phrase first originated, today, the ‘it’ generally refers to a person’s mouth.
Thus, the imagery for this idiom is that if someone is being annoying (either by talking too much or by making a bunch of noise), then a sock is shoved into their mouths to shut them up. While I’m not going to try this out for myself, I would say that having a sock put into anyone’s mouth would quiet them down in a heartbeat; it would make it difficult to talk at all.
Anyways, this expression goes back to at least the early 20th century, and the meaning looks to be the same. For example, the Western Mail newspaper, printed in 1919, wrote the following:
”But if you want to see a racecourse — a real full-sized dinkum top-hole racecourse I’m speaking of, mind you — come along with me to Tasmania,’ chimed in the small voice of a lad who was very fond of apples, ‘and I will show you—
‘Oh, dry up Tassie; put a sock in it.’ “
This means the phrase is nearly 100 years old.
- Will you put a sock in it already? I already told you that I’ll take the garbage out later tonight!
- Jake was having a hard time studying in the library because someone was typing obnoxiously loud on a nearby computer. So he approached the noisy offender and told them to put a sock in it.
Note: The origins for many common phrases are not known. When this happens, there may be theories that exist that talk about how a phrase possibly originated. If there are, I’ll (usually) list these theories on the page. Or, instead, I might just include the oldest known appearance of the phrase in writing.
These quotes can give an idea on how far back in history the expression goes. So, for example, the quote above is from the year 1919, thus you know that the expression is at least that old. It’s possible that older citations exist and I have missed them.