'Tie the Knot': Definition, Meaning, Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on September 23, 2023

Have you ever heard the expression 'tie the knot?' If so, you might be wondering what it means. Don't worry; you're in the right place. In this article, you'll learn what this famous idiom means, where it originates, and how to use it in a sentence.

If you're just here for the short version, here it is:

  • 'Tie the knot' is another way to say 'get married.' It dates back to an old Celtic tradition of tying knots during a wedding.

What Does 'Tie the Knot' Mean?

This saying is a perfect example of how idioms can't be interpreted literally. There's no actual knot involved here. Having said that, analyzing the literal meaning can often help us understand the intended metaphor.

When you make a knot, you bind two pieces of string or rope together. It's an act of unity that can be related to the act of getting married. And that's precisely what it means to tie the knot: to get married.

Imagine, for instance, that you were visiting with an old friend, and they asked you about an old buddy you had in common.

You might say:

Oh, Sandra ? You'll never believe it. She and Robin have been dating for years. They're tying the knot this weekend!

Because this idiom contains a verb, you might see it in other forms, including:

Where Does 'Tie the Knot' Come From?

The idiom likely has its roots in ancient customs and rituals associated with marriage. Throughout history, various cultures have used knots and binding ceremonies as symbols of unity and commitment in marriage. For example, in some cultures, couples would literally tie knots in cords or ribbons as part of their wedding ceremony.

Specifically, an old Celtic tradition called 'handfasting' involved the symbolic act of joining hands, often with a cord or ribbon, to signify the union between two individuals. While it has pagan roots, it has also been adapted and incorporated into modern wedding ceremonies, particularly among those who wish to celebrate their Celtic heritage or have a unique and meaningful wedding ritual.

The expression "tie the knot" began to be used figuratively to refer to marriage in the English language in the 18th century. It has since become a widely recognized and used idiom for the act of getting married, and it remains in common use today.

Some sources attribute the idiom to the following proverb, which appears in John Ray's 1670 proverb collection:

to tie a knot with one’s tongue that one cannot untie with one’s teeth

But this has an entirely different meaning that has nothing to do with getting married. This saying conveys the idea that once spoken, words or promises can be binding and difficult to retract or undo. In other words, it emphasizes the importance of being cautious about what one says because spoken words can have lasting consequences.

The reality is it probably evolved organically over time, just like many idioms do.

Examples in Sentences

Now we've covered the idiom's meaning and its possible origins; here are some examples of it being used in a sentence. Bear in mind that it contains a verb ('tie'), which means sometimes you might see it in other forms, such as the infinitive, past indefinite, present participle, and future simple.

Sarah and John are planning to tie the knot next summer in a beautiful beach ceremony.

After years of dating, Mary and Peter finally tied the knot last weekend with their famlies present.

The couple invited their closest friends and family to witness them tie the knot in a small, intimate ceremony.

They had been together for a long time, so it was no surprise when they announced their plans to tie the knot.

Jane and David have been engaged for months and are excited to finally tie the knot this weekend.

My grandparents have been happily married for 50 years since they tied the knot in 1973.

I'm finally tying the knot with my fiance this year. 

They have decided that they will tie the knot, but first they will take premarital counseling to strengthen their relationship.

Many celebrities choose to tie the knot in private ceremonies to avoid excessive media attention.

After a whirlwind romance, they are tying the knot next month in a spontaneous courthouse wedding.

Other Ways to Say 'Tie the Knot'

Of course, just like with most idioms, there's always more than just one way to say something. Here are some other ways to tell someone to put their best foot forward.  

  • Get hitched
  • Get married
  • Wed
  • Marry
  • Unite in matrimony
  • Take the plunge
  • Seal the deal
  • Exchange vows
  • Walk down the aisle
  • Get spliced.
  • Plight your troth.
  • Become man and wife

Concluding Thoughts

Well, that pretty much concludes this article on the popular idiom. So basically, if someone is getting married, you can say they're 'tying the knot.'

Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Check out our idioms blog for even more idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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