Hook Line and Sinker – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen someone who would believe almost anything wholeheartedly, or accept anything that someone told them without much questioning or thought going into it? The term 'hook line and sinker' is a popular expression that can be used to point this out to others. This term unpacks the meaning and origin of this saying.


The term 'hook line and sinker' is a common metaphorical expression that is used as a common insult that is directed at someone's reasoning capability or their intelligence.

If someone is said to have fallen for something 'hook line and sinker' then it means to say that they are gullible or would believe anything.

The expression 'hook, line and sinker' implies that someone is seen as dumb by the speaker.

The expression can be used as a humorous term in the right context, but it can also be used as a direct insult that means simply that someone is stupid or believes anything.

The most common usage of the expression is to say that someone “fell for [something/it] hook, line and sinker.”

The further implication of the expression is that someone is as dumb as a fish who would easily let itself be caught with the hook, line and sinker of a fisherman's pole.

Example Usage

“We didn't believe the fake news at all in Oklahoma, but they fell for the whole thing hook, line and sinker somewhere in Texas.”

“There isn't a lot of things that we can do about the fact that your grandaddy is dumb as a rock. He fell for the story about the cow's milk hook, line and sinker. Your grandmother didn't and this is why they're divorced.”

“It's amazing how many things people will believe. They fell for the rumor hook, line and sinker – and the rest of us just sat their laughing at 'em.”

“People will believe anything if it sounds and looks official, I'm telling you. We just had to flash the card with the stamp on it. They fell for it hook, line and sinker and let us straight into the bar.”


The expression 'hook line and sinker' is something that is said to have come from the 19th Century, even though most online language resources say that the first use of the term in popular media from the time is difficult to track down.

From what is known about the saying to fall for something 'hook line and sinker', the term originates from fishing.

Someone who falls for something 'hook line and sinker' is assumed to be exactly as dumb as a fish that lets itself get caught by the entire fishing apparatus that is being held above water by the fisherman.

It is the same as saying to someone that they are as dumb as a caught fish, even though it might be an expression that sounds more polite than this when you say it.

Phrases Similar to Hook Line and Sinker

  • Lock stock and barrel

Phrases Opposite to Hook Line and Sinker

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • [he/she/they] fell for it hook line and sinker

Ways People May Say Hook Line and Sinker Incorrectly

The term 'hook line and sinker' can be used in the wrong way by anyone who does not understand the term or its meaning.

When someone uses 'hook line and sinker' in a sentence, then the meaning of the term is usually insulting or humorous, and entirely figurative.

The term originates from fishing, but 'hook line and sinker' often has nothing to do with fishing when the context of the rest of the discussion does not indicate it.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Hook Line and Sinker

The correct way to use the phrase 'hook, line and sinker' is to use the term to indicate that someone is gullible or that someone will believe anything.

The usual way to use this expression is to say that someone 'fell for something hook line and sinker' – or in other words, that they believed it wholeheartedly.

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