Pig in a poke

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A pig in a poke. Whist, whist by Samuel William Fores, 1788

Pig in a poke is an English idiom which means a kind of deceptive trick. It is a blind bargain.[1]

The phrase is about something which is offered for sale in a manner which hides its true value. The idiom means a purchase which turns out not to be what the seller claimed it was.[2]

History[change | change source]

The term "pig in a poke" was first used in the Middle Ages.[3] At this time, it was common to sell meat or small animals in cloth bags or sacks called a "poke".[4]

Sometimes people simply bought the "poke" without looking inside; and sometimes people who thought they were buying pork or a small pig were surprised to find they had been sold something else.

The idiom pig in a poke is about what happens when someone does not look to see what is being bought or sold.[5]

Meaning[change | change source]

The idiom "pig in a poke" is used to describe something which is purchased without the buyer being aware of its true nature or value.

The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of it. In other words, it is about starting a course of action without knowing the relevant facts.[6]

Many other European languages have a version of this phrase, but many are translated as a warning not to buy a cat in a bag.[7] -

Language Phrase Translation
Bulgarian да купиш котка в торба to buy a cat in a bag
Catalan [Donar/Prendre gat per llebre] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to give/to take cat instead of hare
Chinese 挂羊头卖狗肉 sell dog meat as mutton
Croatian [kupiti mačka u vreći] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Czech [koupit zajíce v pytli] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a hare in a sack
Danish [at købe katten i sækken] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in the sack
Dutch [een kat in de zak kopen] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in the sack
Estonian [ostma põrsast kotis] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a piglet in a sack
French [acheter un chat dans un sac] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)
[acheter chat en poche] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)
to buy a cat in a bag[8]
Finnish [ostaa sika säkissä] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a pig in a sack
German [Die Katze im Sack kaufen] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in the sack[8]
Greek αγοράζω γουρούνι στο σακκί to buy a pig in a sack
Hebrew חתול בשק cat in a sack
Hungarian [zsákbamacska] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) cat in a sack
Icelandic [að kaupa köttinn í sekknum] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in the sack
Indonesian [kucing dalam karung] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) cat in a sack
Irish [ceannaigh muc i mála] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) buying a pig in a bag
Italian [comperare un gatto in sacco] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) buying a cat in a sack[8]
Latvian [pirkt kaķi maisā] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Lithuanian [pirkti katę maiše] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Luxembourgish [d'Kaz am Sak kafen] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in a sack
Macedonian да купиш мачка во вреќа to buy the cat in the sack
Norwegian [kjøpe katta i sekken] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in the sack
Polish [kupić kota w worku] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Portuguese [comprar gato por lebre] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat instead of a hare
Romanian [cumperi mâța în sac] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the cat in the bag
Russian купить кота в мешке to buy a cat in a sack
Spanish [dar gato por liebre] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to give a cat instead of a hare
Spanish [hay gato encerrado] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) there is a cat shut inside
Serbian купити мачку у џаку to buy a cat in a sack
Slovak [kúpiť mačku vo vreci] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Slovene [kupiti mačka v žaklju] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy a cat in a sack
Swedish [köpa grisen i säcken] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) to buy the pig in the sack

References[change | change source]

  1. Brewer, Ebenezer Cobham. (1853). "Pig in a poke," Errors of speech and of spelling, Vol. 2, p. 853.
  2. Brown, Keith. (2009). Concise Encyclopedia of Semantics, p. 404.
  3. Amer, Christine. (1997). "Pig in a poke," The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, p. 499.
  4. A poke is a sack or bag. It comes from the French word poque; see Philip Durkin (2009). The Oxford Guide to Etymology, p. 106.
  5. Lal, Ram Narain. (1904). "Pig," The Student's practical dictionary of idioms, phrases and terms: with explanation in English and Roman-Urdu, p. 470.
  6. Trask, Robert Lawrence and Peter Stockwell. (2007). Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts, p. 114.
  7. A related English expression is "let the cat out of the bag".
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Gewehr, Wolf and Georgia Catsimali. (1998). Aspects of Modern Language Teaching in Europe, p. 203.