When it comes to idioms and phrases, “if the shoe fits” is an often-used expression with a deep meaning behind it. This phrase has been around for a while and has been used in different contexts, making it an essential part of conversational English. However, what does “if the shoe fits” mean, and how can you use it in your regular life? This comprehensive guide offers a detailed overview of the phrase’s origin, meaning, and usage.

Origin of the phrase

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The phrase “if the shoe fits” has been around for more than a century. It is believed to have originated from an old fairytale story, Cinderella, which dates back to the seventeenth century. The story goes that a young woman Cinderella was denied the privilege of attending the ball by her step-sisters. However, with the help of a fairy godmother’s magic, Cinderella was transformed into a beautiful princess and went to the ball wearing a glass slipper. During the ball, the prince fell in love with her, but Cinderella had to leave early to return home before her magical transformation ended. The prince searched the entire kingdom for the owner of the glass slipper and finally finds Cinderella, fitting the shoe.

Since then, the phrase “if the shoe fits” has been used to refer to a situation where something fits perfectly – just like Cinderella’s glass slipper, which only fit perfectly on her foot.

Meaning of the phrase “If the shoe fits”

The phrase “if the shoe fits” means that if something applies to you, you should accept it instead of denying it. When someone applies something personally to you and you can relate, you can use this phrase to acknowledge it, accept it, and move on. It’s like wearing a brand new shoe that fits you perfectly. You would not have any problem wearing them because they are well suited to your feet.

The phrase is often used in a conversation where someone implies a certain suggestion or criticism, and to which you feel that you are personally related. Instead of getting offended or angry, you can choose to admit and accept the situation by using the phrase “if the shoe fits” and continuing from there.

Usage of the phrase

The phrase “if the shoe fits” has a wide range of usage in everyday conversations. Here are a few examples:

-“Josh told Bob that he is so lazy that he can’t even make his bed. Bob replied If the shoe fits, Josh.”

-“A friend says to another friend: I heard you have been lazy lately. The friend responds: If the shoe fits, then I guess I have been lazy.”

-“The guy next to me was wearing a shirt with a political slogan on it, and I said, “I don’t think you should wear that T-shirt,” and he replied, “If the shoe fits…”

The phrase is a common language expression that helps people acknowledge their faults and shortcomings without getting too defensive. The usage of this phrase helps reduce tensions in conversations as the person using the phrase indicatively accepts the criticism and ends the conversation on a cordial note.

Use in literature

The phrase “if the shoe fits” is often used in various literature works to emphasize an aspect of life. For instance, E.L. James uses the phrase in the 2011 book, “Fifty Shades of Grey” to imply that if you feel that you fit into a certain group’s category, then that’s the best place for you. In the book, Christian tells Anastasia, “If you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week after the stunt you pulled yesterday,” and she responds with “If I were yours, which I’m not, you could’ve taken me to your playroom and shown me what you meant. If the shoe fits, and all that.”

The phrase has also been used in music. In her song “So What,” pop singer Pink implies “if the shoe fits I’ll wear it,” indicating that she accepts all of the criticism against her, and she is unapologetically herself.


In conclusion, the phrase “if the shoe fits” is a common idiomatic expression that dates back to historical literature and culture and is still widely used today. The meaning of the phrase – accepting a criticism that relates to you personally – is well represented in popular culture, literature, and everyday life. The phrase offers a non-defensive approach to criticism, promoting self-awareness, and letting go of defensive barriers. By understanding the origin, meaning, and usage, you can utilize the phrase to improve your conversations’ quality and achieve meaningful communication.

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