under someone’s nose: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘under someone's nose’ mean?

The idiom "under someone's nose" means that something is happening or someone is doing something right in front of someone else and they are completely unaware of it.

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ng things that are right in front of us. It serves as a reminder to always stay alert and attentive, as important information or opportunities may slip "under our noses" if we are not paying close attention.

Related Idiom: under one's very eyes

A closely related idiom to "under someone's nose" is "under one's very eyes." This expression emphasizes the idea of something happening or being present in an extremely obvious and visible manner, yet still going unnoticed by someone. It adds a sense of disbelief or astonishment at the person's lack of awareness.

For example, imagine a scenario where a child sneaks a cookie from the cookie jar while their parent is sitting at the kitchen table. The parent might say, "You took that cookie right under my very eyes! I didn't even see it!" This usage of the idiom suggests that the action was so blatant and visible, that it is almost unfathomable that the person didn't see it happening.

Similarly, in a more metaphorical sense, the idiom can be used to express surprise or disbelief when someone fails to notice or acknowledge something that is happening right in front of them, even though it is easily observable.

Related Idiom: in front of one's nose

Another idiom that is closely associated with "under someone's nose" is "in front of one's nose." This expression conveys the notion that something is unmistakably obvious or clear, yet the person still fails to recognize or acknowledge it.

When an object or information is right "in front of one's nose," it means that it is positioned so prominently or conspicuously that it should be impossible to miss. However, due to a lack of attention or awareness, the person overlooks or disregards it.

For instance, imagine a person searching for their glasses while they are wearing them. Someone observing the situation might say, "Your glasses are right in front of your nose! Can't you see them?" This usage of the idiom highlights the irony of the person's oversight, as the glasses are literally in front of their nose, yet they failed to notice their presence.

Related Idiom: under the radar

He stole the money right under their noses.

The idiom "under the radar" has a similar connotation to "under someone's nose," but with a slightly different emphasis. "Under the radar" refers to something that goes unnoticed or undetected, often intentionally, by those who should be paying attention.

While "under someone's nose" suggests that something is happening without the person's awareness, "under the radar" implies that the activity or information is intentionally flying under the radar or avoiding detection.

An example of this idiom in use could be a company trying to launch a new product without attracting too much attention from their competitors. They might say, "We're keeping this launch under the radar for now, so let's not publicize it too much." This usage illustrates the deliberate effort to keep something hidden or low-profile, so it remains unnoticed or undiscovered by others.

Related Idiom: behind someone's back

"Behind someone's back" is another idiom that is closely linked to the concept of "under someone's nose." This expression refers to actions or behavior that are done secretly or deceptively, typically without the knowledge or consent of the person concerned.

When someone does something "behind someone's back," it means they are acting in a way that is hidden or concealed from the person, either to avoid their disapproval or to deceive them.

For example, imagine a group of friends planning a surprise party for one of their friends. They might say, "Let's organize everything behind her back so that she doesn't find out about the surprise." This usage of the idiom demonstrates the intention to keep the plans hidden and to carry out the preparations without the person's knowledge.

Related Idiom: slip under the radar

When something "slips under the radar," it means that it goes unnoticed or undetected, often due to a lack of attention or vigilance. This idiom suggests that the object or information manages to sneak past or evade the usual system of checks or scrutiny.

For example, imagine a student who fails to submit an assignment on time and the teacher doesn't notice. The student might say, "I guess my late submission slipped under the radar. The teacher didn't even realize I didn't hand it in." This usage of the idiom conveys a sense of relief or luck, as the person managed to avoid detection or consequences for their actions.

The idiom "under someone's nose" captures the idea of something happening or being present without someone's awareness. It serves as a reminder to always stay attentive and observant in order to avoid overlooking important information or opportunities. Related idioms such as "under one's very eyes," "in front of one's nose," "under the radar," "behind someone's back," and "slip under the radar" add nuances and variations to the concept of being unaware or oblivious to what is happening right in front of us.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "under someone's nose" can be used in a sentence:

  1. He was searching for his keys everywhere, not realizing they were right under his nose the whole time.
  2. The thief stole the valuable painting right under the museum's security guard's nose.
  3. My sister always finds my hidden snacks under her nose.

The idiom "under someone's nose" is used to describe something that is done or happening in a very obvious or visible way, yet the person fails to notice it. It implies that the person is unaware or oblivious to something that is right in front of them.

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