Add Insult To Injury – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you ever experienced something troubling or terrible only to have someone come along and make it worse? Maybe you got some bad news only to be dealt with even more a short time later? If so, the idiom add insult to injury is a phrase that will come in handy. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The phrase add insult to injury means to add additional strife when someone has already been dealt a bad hand. Making a person’s troubles worse in a situation that is already not in their favor is the main meaning of add insult to injury. For example, having your car stolen is an injury, having it stolen a day after the policy expired is an added insult. In this way, the phrase is meant to convey a compound problem that is further exacerbated by a separate, yet equally unfortunate occurrence.

Any event or action that adds more problems on top of an already bad situation is adding insult to injury. Worsening an uncomfortable situation by increasing the awkwardness is another meaning of the phrase add insult to injury. When someone loses out or fails, but is them mocked, it can mean an insult has been added to the injury.

Example Usage

“He cheated on her but to add insult to injury, the other woman was her twin sister”.

“Losing the promotion was hard in itself, but to add insult to injury, a new hire was awarded the senior position”.

“Coming in second is never fun, but to add insult to injury, losing the top spot by a half of a point made it worse”.

“I was overcharged for the meal, and to add insult to injury, the service was terrible and they got the order wrong”.


The exact origin of the phrase to add insult to injury is disputed, however, it is agreed that it has been around since the 1700s. It was found in English around that time and is most often attributed to the fable by the Roman writer Phaedrus. The fable was about a fly and a bald man. In the story, the fly would land on the man’s head, and in an effort to remove it, he would hit himself. The injury is the fly on his bald head, and the added insult would be his need to keep hitting himself to remove the fly. Phaedrus was said to have lived around the time of 15 B.C., which would give the phrase ancient roots.

Phrases Similar to Add Insult To Injury

  • Rub salt into the wound
  • To make matters worse
  • Add fuel to the fire
  • Slap in the face
  • Further aggravate
  • Twist the knife

Phrases Opposite to Add Insult To Injury

  • Make peace
  • Smooth over
  • Back up
  • Assuage
  • Soothe
  • Allay
  • Mitigate

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper way to say the phrase is – to add insult to injury.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Add Insult To Injury

Some ways that Add Insult To Injury is misused are:

  • Getting first place is an amazing feeling, to add insult to injury, I also got the highest cash prize.
  • Why would you berate him after falling down, it is always good to add insult to injury to help build character.

Ways People May Correctly Say Add Insult To Injury

Some ways that Add Insult To Injury is used correctly are:

  • Not only did they reject his application for a promotion, to add insult to injury, but they also lowered his pay.
  • My parents cut me out of their will and to add insult to injury, they also gave everything to my step-brother who lived there rent-free.
  • Traveling over long distances is already hard, but to add insult to injury, it’s the middle of summer and the air condition isn’t working.
  • Her team lost the match and to add insult to injury, half of the players were fined for cheating during the game.

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