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To claim that something is happening when it really isn't, which results in the rejection of subsequent valid claims. The expression comes from one of Aesop's fables, in which a young shepherd lies about a wolf threatening his flock so many times that people do not believe him when he and his flock are legitimately in danger. I'm sure there's no real crisis—Janet is always crying wolf so that we'll do her work for her.
Fig. to cry or complain about something when nothing is really wrong. (From the story wherein a child sounds the alarm frequently about a wolf when there is no wolf, only to be ignored when there actually is a wolf.) Pay no attention. She's just crying wolf again. Don't cry wolf too often. No one will come.
Raise a false alarm, as in Helen's always crying wolf about attempted break-ins, but the police can never find any evidence . This term comes from the tale about a young shepherd watching his flock who, lonely and fearful, called for help by shouting "Wolf!" After people came to his aid several times and saw no wolf, they ignored his cries when a wolf actually attacked his sheep. The tale appeared in a translation of Aesop's fables by Roger L'Estrange (1692), and the expression has been applied to any false alarm since the mid-1800s.
COMMON If someone cries wolf, they claim that they are in danger or trouble when they are not, so that when they really are in danger or trouble and ask for help, no one believes them or helps them. Tom was just crying wolf. He wanted attention. Farmers have cried wolf in the past but this time, the industry really is at crisis point.
cry wolfcall for help when it is not needed; raise a false alarm.
An old fable tells the tale of a shepherd boy who constantly raised false alarms with cries of ‘Wolf!’, until people no longer took any notice of him. When a wolf did actually appear and attack him, his genuine cries for help were ignored and no one came to his aid.
cry ˈwolfrepeatedly say there is danger, etc. when there is none, or ask for help when there is no need (with the result that people do not think you are telling the truth when there is real danger or when you really need help): Is the economic future really so bad? Or are the economists just crying wolf?This refers to the traditional story of the shepherd boy who shouted ‘Wolf!’ just to frighten people, so that when a wolf did come, nobody went to help him.
To raise a false alarm.
cry wolf, to
To give a false alarm. The term comes from an ancient tale about a shepherd lad watching his flock on a far-off hillside. Lonely and fearful, he called for help by crying out, “Wolf!” After people had responded to his cries several times and found no wolf had threatened him, they refused to come to his aid when a wolf finally did attack his sheep. It soon was transferred to all such false alarms, and was already a cliché by the time R. D. Blackmore wrote about the French invasion, “The cry of wolf grows stale at last, and then the real danger comes” (Springhaven, 1887).
See also: cry
To raise a false alarm, to ask for assistance when you don't need it, and by extension, to exaggerate or lie. The phrase comes from the Aesop fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” in which a young shepherd found it amusing to make villagers think a wolf is attacking his flock. When they came to his rescue, they learned of the false alarm. However, when a wolf actually menaced the flock, the villagers disregarded the shepherd's calls for help, and the wolf ate the flock (and in some versions the boy). The moral: “Even when liars tell the truth, they are never believed."