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VerbEdit

try it on (third-person singular simple present tries it on, present participle trying it on, simple past and past participle tried it on)

  1. (idiomatic, colloquial) To test someone to see how much bad behaviour they will tolerate; to try to deceive someone to see how gullible they are.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 34,[1]
      “Come, come,” said James, putting his hand to his nose and winking at his cousin with a pair of vinous eyes, “no jokes, old boy; no trying it on on me. You want to trot me out, but it’s no go. In vino veritas, old boy []
    • 1908, E. M. Forster, A Room with a View, London: Edward Arnold, Part 1, Chapter 6, p. 95,[2]
      “We must not submit,” said Mr. Eager. “I knew he was trying it on. He is treating us as if we were a party of Cook’s tourists.”
    • 1937, Robert Byron, The Road to Oxiana, London: Macmillan, Part 1, p. 35,[3]
      The Arabs hate the French more than they hate us. Having more reason to do so, they are more polite; in other words, they have learnt not to try it on, when they meet a European.
    • 1954, William Golding, Lord of the Flies, New York: Putnam, 1964, Chapter 8, p. 133,[4]
      “I’m warning you. I’m going to get angry. D’you see? You’re not wanted. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island. Understand? We are going to have fun on this island! So don’t try it on, my poor misguided boy, or else—”
  2. (idiomatic, colloquial) To try to start a sexual relationship (with someone).
    • 1926, Nevil Shute, Marazan, London: Cassell, Chapter 1,[5]
      [] Tell her I’ll be outside the house from eleven o’clock onwards. Tell her to leave the morning-room window open and to switch on the light in her bedroom when it’s safe for me to come in.”
      “She won’t believe me if I go and tell her that,” I said. “No girl would. She’d think I was trying it on.”
    • 1969, Hortense Calisher, The New Yorkers, Boston: Little, Brown, Chapter 11, p. 319,[6]
      No, this was only a young man trying it on with a girl, in that light, undergraduate way in which this kind could snap back.