On the Qt – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen the phrase 'on the qt' somewhere and would like to know what the saying means? The 'qt' is short for the word 'quiet' and not 'cute' or 'cutie' as some people might have thought. This post unpacks the meaning, origin and use of the common saying.


The phrase 'on the qt' is a type of shortened figurative English expression.

'On the qt' is taken from the longer common phrase 'on the quiet' and it is often used as a shortened way to use the longer saying.

Someone who is doing something 'on the quiet' is implied to be doing something quietly, secretly, or without anyone noticing.

The implication of the phrase 'on the quiet' is usually used without any implications of wrong-doing or harm. The phrase can also be applied to say that someone is sneaking around, with the implication that they shouldn't be.

A similar figurative saying in English is to describe an action or person as being 'quiet as a mouse'.

Context of the phrase is usually clear from what's being said in the rest of the discussion.

The phrase can also be used in the negative form to imply that someone has done (or is doing) something 'not on the quiet', or loudly.

Rarely, the abbreviation 'qt' can refer to 'quality time'.

Example Usage

“I don't know what you're going to do down at the old docks at midnight, but make sure that you do it on the qt or someone is going to hear you screw around in the dark.”

“I'll make sure I'm on the qt at work tomorrow. The boss always appreciates the silence when he has a hangover on a Monday.”

“If you're going to steal that file, you should be on the qt because someone might be at home and you're going to get caught.”

“He sure wasn't on the qt when he burgled The Simpson house. That's how he got caught carrying their microwave through the living room. He was making too much noise while he was doing it.”


According to most online language resources, the first use and origin of the phrase 'on the quiet' is difficult to find. Most language resources agree that the phrase must have come from at least the 19thcentury, where it was used as a common expression in British texts.

There are no referenecs to the longer phrase 'on the quiet' or the abbreviated 'on the qt' before the 19th century: it is assumed that the expression entered British and American speech between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

The phrase would spread to social media, where the abbreviation 'on the qt' would become common online to shorten the phrase.

The meaning of the phrase has changed little to none since the beginning of its use.

Urban Dictionary lists several meanings for the phrase 'qt' from the year 2003, including 'cutie' and 'quality time' but does not list 'on the quiet' as a meaning for the abbreviation.

Phrases Similar to On the Qt

  • Quiet as a mouse

Phrases Opposite to On the Qt

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • On the qt
  • On the quiet

Ways People May Say On the Qt Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase 'on the qt' in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the saying.

The phrase is used as 'on the quiet', and the word 'qt' stands for 'quiet' and not 'cute' as some people might assume when they first encounter it without knowledge of what it means.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase On the Qt

The correct way to use the phrase 'on the qt' is to use it as a shortened version of the saying 'on the quiet'.

When someone uses the phrase 'on the quiet' it can be used as a self-reference, or a reference to someone else – or to a third-party which two people are talking about.

Someone can also use the phrase in the negative form as 'not on the qt' to point out that someone was obvious (or noisy) when doing something.


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