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slap on the wrist

A mild punishment or warning. Bill hasn't been late to school that many times, so just give him a slap on the wrist for his tardiness. Most people are outraged that the corporation only received a slap on the wrist after breaking so many regulations.
See also: on, slap, wrist


1. Weak; lacking force or conviction. Many have criticized the president's limp-wristed response to the attack, calling for him to authorize a full-fledged military strike.
2. (usually of a man) Weak; effeminate; lacking qualities typically associated with masculinity. (Often used in a pejorative way to imply that a man is homosexual.) He was at first dismissed out of hand by many as just a limp-wristed fop, but he proved himself to be one of the toughest litigators in the country.

*slap on the wrist

1. Lit. a hit on the wrist as a mild punishment for putting one's hands where they shouldn't be or taking something. (*Typically: get ~; give someone ~.) When Billy tried to grab another cookie, he got a slap on the wrist.
2. Fig. to get a light punishment (for doing something wrong). (*Typically: get ~; give some-one ~.) He created quite a disturbance, but he only got a slap on the wrist from the judge. I thought I'd get a slap on the wrist for speeding, but I got fined $500.
See also: on, slap, wrist

slap someone on the wrist

 and slap someone's wrist 
1. Lit. to strike someone's wrist with the open hand, as a punishment. Aunt Maude slapped Tony on the wrist when he grabbed a couple of her freshly baked cookies. Tony was slapped on the wrist when he tried to swipe some cookies.
2. Fig. to administer only the mildest of punishments to someone. The judge did nothing but slap the mugger on the wrist.
See also: on, slap, wrist

slap on the wrist

A mild reproof, as in We were fined heavily, and all she got from the judge was a slap on the wrist. [Early 1900s]
See also: on, slap, wrist

a slap on the wrist

A slap on the wrist is a small punishment or occasion when someone is told they have done something wrong. She was given a small fine — a slap on the wrist really. But other than a few slaps on the wrist, the General went unpunished.
See also: on, slap, wrist

slap on the wrist

a mild reprimand or punishment.
1997 New Scientist Last week, in a Washington district court, [a judge] ordered software giant Microsoft to stop forcing PC-makers to install both Windows 95 and its Web browser, Internet Explorer. So far, though, it is just a slap on the wrist.
See also: on, slap, wrist

a slap on the ˈwrist

(informal) a small punishment or warning: I got a slap on the wrist from my secretary today for leaving the office so untidy.
See also: on, slap, wrist

kick in the wrist

n. a drink of liquor. You want another kick in the wrist?
See also: kick, wrist

slap someone’s wrist

and slap someone on the wrist
tv. to administer a minor reprimand. The courts only slap them on the wrist and send them back out on the streets.
See also: slap, wrist

slap someone on the wrist

See also: on, slap, wrist

slap on the wrist

A nominal or token punishment.
See also: on, slap, wrist
References in classic literature ?
First he went up to the Cyprian and wounded her in the hand near her wrist, and then he sprang upon me too as though he were a god.
All along by the sedgy banks of the rivers long lines of pages led their masters' chargers down to water, while the knights themselves lounged in gayly-dressed groups about the doors of their pavilions, or rode out, with their falcons upon their wrists and their greyhounds behind them, in quest of quail or of leveret.
My wrists and arms ached intolerably, and though I had eaten heartily of a twelve-o'clock lunch, I had worked so hard that I was faint from hunger.
A red-faced barrel of a boy did all the holding, one hand round the wrist, the other palm to palm, and his knees braced up against the panel.
The pinched white hand of Raffles, reddening with returning blood, and with a clot of blood upon the wrist, was craning upward and turning the key in the lock without a moment's loss.
Brott dropped her wrist and turned round with an exclamation of anger.
A mad impulse seized on Stephen; he darted toward the arm, and showered kisses on it, clasping the wrist.
Felton tied her two wrists together with his handkerchief, and then with a cord over the handkerchief.
Near the bottom of the ladder, when he found no more support for his feet, he clung with his hands; at length, arrived at the last step, he let himself hang by the strength of his wrists, and touched the ground.
The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord.
She was overdressed, but not badly dressed, in black with a high collar, and she wore black glace gloves, in which she played cards; she had several heavy gold chains round her neck, bangles on her wrists, and circular photograph pendants, one being of Queen Alexandra; she carried a black satin bag and chewed Sen-sens.
There was a round of clapping during which she deftly fixed bells to her wrists.
Those broad, reddish hands, with hairy wrists visible from under the shirt cuffs, laid down the pack and took up a glass and a pipe that were handed him.
I was terribly sore, and, worst of all, my wrists were swelling.
The worst of it was that my wrists were swelling and going back on me.