Learn English Online - Idiomatic Expressions

Definition of Idiomatic Expressions


What does wear the pants mean?

Meaning of idioms with examples...

wear the pants


If a woman wears the pants, she exercises authority or is the person in charge in a relationship.

The British version of the phrase is:
- Wear the trousers.


This idiom is generally used to describe women who have control in a relationship. It dates from the mid-1500s, a time when women wore exclusively skirts and men wore only pants or breeches. Although fashion has changed considerably and women wear not only skirts but also pants and shorts, the phrase is still used to mean assuming authority or responsibility in a relationship.

One of the earliest uses of the phrase dates back to at least 1612 in an epigram by John Harrington, who was also the inventor of the flush toilet, published posthumously in 1633. John Harrington uses the phrase in a story about a couple arguing "who ware the breeches."
“Of A Household Fray Friendly Ended.
A Man and wife strove earst who should be masters
and having chang’d between them household speeches
The man in wrath brought forth a paire of wasters,
& swore those 2 should prove who ware the breeches.


- He may seem authoritative, but the truth is that it's his wife who really wears the pants in that relationship.
- She wants to give the impression that she wears the trousers but it's her husband who has the final say.

This idiom is in the clothes category

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