slap on the wrist




slap on the wrist (third-person singular simple present slaps on the wrist, present participle slapping on the wrist, simple past and past participle slapped on the wrist)

  1. To punish in an overly mild and largely symbolic manner.
    • 1992, Nixon, Richard, “The Pacific Triangle”, in Seize the Moment[1], Simon & Schuster, →ISBN, LCCN 91-37743, OCLC 440652941, page 189:
      Gorbachev played a skillful diplomatic game in Asia. While enhancing Soviet relations with South Korea—moving from no ties to full diplomatic relations in only three years— he continued to back North Korea, though slapping its leader on the wrist for its nuclear program. While Soviet trade with South Korea will rise from $85 million in 1985 to an estimated $1 billion in 1995, Moscow continued to provide $1 billion in aid to North Korea and to equip the 1.1 million troops in its armed forces with Soviet weapons.
  2. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see slap,‎ wrist.


slap on the wrist (plural slaps on the wrist or slaps on wrists)

  1. (idiomatic) An overly mild punishment; a reprimand.
    He got a slap on the wrist, but I don't think he'll reform.
    • 1983, United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs, Management of the Department of Defense, page 29:
      Although he permitted "slap on the wrist" against the procurement personnel who misprocured on the basis of incorrect technical information, he did nothing against those technical personnel who "perpetrated misconceptions" and disseminated "statements which were inaccurate, unproven, inconsistent" and who were "biased against JRL interests" and who thus misled these procurement personnel.
  2. Used other than figuratively or idiomatically: see slap,‎ wrist.