What Is the Origin of the Phrase "Under My Belt"?

Some of the earliest references of the phrase
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When you use the phrase "under my belt," it can have multiple meanings. You may be using it to explain you have acquired or possess experience in a particular area. For example, you might say, "I'm an expert at knitting now that I have five years of practice under my belt." However, it can also reference something you have consumed, like food or drink.

1 Drink Up!

The earliest usages of the phrase "under my belt" appear in literature, and primarily reference the consumption of alcohol. For example, in "Ormond, A Tale," by Maria Edgewort, written in 1873, a character had a rule of never going to bed "without a proper quantity of liquor under this belt." In "The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias Smollett, M.D," published in 1790, the author states that a man was carried home with "bottles of claret under his belt." Claret is a type of red wine.

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2 Ownership

There are few earlier references of the phrase "under my belt" as it refers to owning something or possessing knowledge. One early reference is found in a Scottish proverb, which claims, "Your tongue is not under my belt," meaning that a person cannot make you be quiet.

  • 1 Online Etymology Dictionary: Belt
  • 2 Harrington,: A Tale; and Ormond, a Tale. In Three Volumes; Maria Edgeworth
  • 3 Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs; James Kelley
  • 4 The Miscellaneous Works of Tobias Smollett, M.D.: In Six Volumes; Tobias George Smollett

Nicole Leigh has been writing professionally since 2009. She is an attorney and teacher whose research has been published in print education journals. Leigh holds a Juris Doctor degree, a Masters degree in curriculum and instruction, a Bachelor of Science in education and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.