Cutting a Rug – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the phrase ‘cutting the rug’ and would like to know more about its meaning and context? Saying that someone has ‘cut the rug’ or is going to, is a compliment as to their past or future dancing skills. The phrase is more popular in some decades than others. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this saying.


The saying ‘cutting the rug’ is used to mean that someone is dancing or is going to dance, usually as a compliment to their dancing ability.

The term ‘cutting the rug’ can be used in several tenses, including the past, present and future depending on the context of the rest of what is being said.

The phrase ‘to cut the rug’ and ‘going to cut the rug’ as well as ‘have cut the rug’ are all acceptable forms of the same phrase.

The term can be used to refer to either one person or several, usually as a compliment to their dancing skills.

The phrase implies that they dance so well that they would leave cuts (or tracks) all over a rug.

The ‘rug’ in the term is entirely figurative, and there is no actual cutting of a rug appropriate to the expression. This is due to its origin, where house parties often involved dancing on rugs.

Example Usage

“After their three years of dancing classes, you can guarantee that the two are really going to cut the rug at the dance tournament next week.”

“They’re pretty good at what they do, and you can be sure they’re going to cut the rug at the club tonight with their skills”

“Hey, grandma, did you and grandad ever go and cut the rug together at the old Inn way across town?”

“I wasn’t the best dancer, but I was sure that we were going to cut the rug at prom night because I was sure that everyone else would be worse.”


According to most online word origin sources, the phrase ‘cutting a rug’ and ‘to cut the rug’ originates from the 1920s.

This is at a time where house parties were popular, and where things like dancing and card parties were the household norm. For houses who chose dance parties, the dancing would often take place on the carpet of the largest room – where it would ‘cut the rug’.

To say that someone ‘cuts the rug’, has ‘cut the rug’ or is going to ‘cut the rug’ is a compliment to their dance skills and implies that someone (either a group or several people) are going out together.

The phrase is considered to be youthful slang in the 1920s, though the term has seen a modern resurgence thanks to popular fiction and social media.

Popular period fiction (from books to series and films) can be given some credit for the modern resurrection of the term.

Phrases Similar to Cutting a Rug

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Phrases Opposite to Cutting a Rug

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What is the Correct Saying?

  • [to] cut the rug
  • [has] cut the rug
  • [going to] cut the rug
  • cut the rug
  • cutting the rug

Ways People May Say Cutting a Rug Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase ‘cutting the wrong’ in the incorrect way, or misunderstand the meaning of the term when it is used.

Someone ‘cuts a rug’ or can be ‘cutting the rug’ when they are going to dance, or go out to party.

The term is not implied as literal.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase  Cutting a Rug

The correct way to use the phrase ‘cutting the rug’ is to say ‘cutting the rug’ in present tense.

Other acceptable uses of the term include to ‘cut the rug’ or to say that someone ‘has/is going to cut the rug’.

The phrase implies partying, dancing or going out.

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