11 “Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb” Similar Phrases

Here is another phrase whose meaning is quite hard to guess. From just reading it, we may have a few ideas already in our heads.

In my many years of studying English, I have realized that some idioms and phrases are not as clear as they seem.

If you are here to know the meaning of ‘Stick out like a Sore Thumb’, you have come to the right place. As mentioned earlier, you may have had a few ideas earlier but you have to be ready to dispose of them.

Not to be too forward, you just may have guessed right but there is only one way to know; keep reading.

Meaning of ‘Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb’

Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb Similar Phrases

When a person says something sticks out like a sore thumb, it is quite easy to guess what it means. Another way to say this phrase is ‘Stand out like a sore thumb’.

‘Stick out like a sore thumb’ simply refers to something that stands out. You probably already know what it means when they say something stands out.

Your sore thumb definitely sticks out from the rest of your fingers so this phrase refers to someone that stands out from a group of other people or something that stands out among other things.

You can say a person sticks out like a sore thumb if he or she is different from other people around.

Origin of ‘Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb’

We can’t boast of knowing who coined this phrase or the exact time it came into use but we know it’s an ancient idiom.

The idea was probably gotten from the thumb and the human hand or just evolved from an older idiom which was also probably gotten from the thumb and the human hand.

The expression, ‘Stick out’, came into use in the 1500s. ‘Stick out like a sore thumb’, on the other hand, came into use in the mid-1800s and was popularized by a writer named Erle Stanley Gardner in the 1930s.

The phrase is argued to have evolved from an older idiom, ‘be on hand like a sore thumb’, which has gone out of use. It was used to mean readiness or availability.

11 Similar Phrases to “Stick Out Like A Sore Thumb”

  1. To be different
  2. Black sheep
  3. Odd one out
  4. To pull attention
  5. To not fit in
  6. To be noticeable
  7. To stand out
  8. Eccentric
  9. Square peg in a round hole
  10. Fish out of water
  11. Weird

To be different

Simple English is often the best. It may not always be but it is usually just okay so you don’t have to explain so much. While this may sound ambiguous in some cases, you will be having less to explain.

You simply have to say why you think the person is different and what exactly makes him or her different.

However, when you say a person sticks out like a sore thumb before you explain why you think the person is different, you may have to explain what the idiom means to your listener.

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Many people already know what the idiom means so you probably won’t have to worry. Still, that doesn’t take away the fact that simple English makes our conversations smooth.

Black sheep

Here is a commonly used term that refers to people who stick out like a sore thumb, especially in the family.

You probably don’t need this explanation since it is commonly used and probably already know what it means.

As mentioned earlier, it is mostly used for the family but it doesn’t refer to the family alone.

When you hear a person being called the black sheep of the family, it means the person stands out among other family members.

Before you use this term, keep in mind that it is mostly used to mean something negative. Therefore, if you say this, your listener or the person you are referring to may automatically believe you mean it negatively.

You can add your reason after saying this. That way, you will be saying exactly what you mean without being mistaken or misunderstood.

You can use this to refer to a person who feels weird amid a crowd of similar people. The people have to be related in a way, just like family members are related.

When you say this, you are comparing the person to a set of people indirectly. It is similar to comparing a black sheep to the other white sheep.

If you stand out among your group or circle of friends, you can be called a black sheep.

Odd one out

This is another popular term that requires very little explanation. We can’t be sure of how this idiom was coined but we can try to guess that from literal meanings.

‘Odd’ has been adopted to mean ‘weird’ and it is often used to refer to a single person among a set of people who is different from the rest.

Therefore, when you hear that a person or a thing is odd, it either means it is weird or the person/thing stands out from a group.

This meaning couldn’t have been derived from numbers since there are several odd numbers, just as there are even numbers.

‘Even’ also has a different meaning. It can be used to refer to something equal or normal and acceptable.

‘Odd’ should be the opposite of this so, when you say ‘Odd one out’, it refers to one person or thing that is not normal or like other things in a group or crowd.

To pull attention

Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb Similar Phrases

We can consider this a worthy synonym even though it is indirect. There is a major difference between this phrase and ‘Stick out like a sore thumb’.

This difference makes them unequal in certain contexts so it is important to note that they are not always interchangeable.

The major difference between the two phrases is that a person or something can pull attention without actually sticking out like a sore thumb.

However, we can consider both of them synonyms since a person that sticks out like a sore thumb will definitely pull attention.

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If it weren’t pulling attention, it would be undiscovered and probably as unknown as many other people or things in the group.

‘To pull attention’ here means to attract attention naturally or unnaturally. A person can naturally stand out in a way that will always get him or her noticed among a group of other people.

A person can also decide to act or appear in an absurd way that will pull the attention of people. For that moment, he or she is ‘Sticking out like a sore thumb’.

Once again, calling the attention of people doesn’t necessarily mean you are sticking out like a sore thumb.

To not fit in

This seems like a prelude to ‘pulling attention’ mentioned earlier. It is a very correct synonym but it is also indirect and cannot be a perfect synonym in every context.

Just like ‘To pull attention’, there is a major difference that makes them unable to be interchanged in certain contexts.

The major difference between the two phrases is that a person may stick out like a sore thumb without necessarily not fitting in.

The person or thing may fit in and still stick out like a sore thumb. However, a person that does not fit into a group will always stick out like a sore thumb among the group.

A goat cannot fit in among chicks and will definitely stick out like a sore thumb. However, we can put a big chick among smaller chicks and, while it may fit in perfectly, it will still stick out like a sore thumb.

Note that sticking out like a sore thumb simply means something is easily noticed.

To be noticeable

This can be considered the best way to interpret the phrase in simple English. This is quite different from ‘Different’ which was mentioned earlier.

While both of them are good synonyms for ‘Stick out like a sore thumb’, both mean different things.

You can say that something sticks out like a sore thumb if the thing is different from other things around it. You can say the same if the thing is simply noticeable.

Something noticeable is not necessarily different, though it may be. However, something different is most likely noticeable.

One chick may be quite noticeable in poultry but it is not necessarily different.

This simple phrase is a better synonym for ‘stick out like a thumb’ because it shares the same meaning and can replace the idiom in all contexts.

To stand out

‘To stand out’ is just like saying something sticks out like a sore thumb. This is not because the two share the same meaning but because this phrase can similarly have several meanings.

When you say something sticks out like a sore thumb, you are implying that it stands out. The two mean the same and can attract the same question which is ‘How.’

Just like ‘Different’, you have to be able to say what makes a thing or a person stand out from a crowd. You may be talking to a person who is not where you are and cannot see what you are seeing.

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You may also be talking to a person who is focusing on something else and may not be able to spot the difference that you are seeing.

It may even be so noticeable but that doesn’t mean it will be noticed by everyone at first glance.

An Eccentric Person

This word refers to a person who behaves differently from a group of people who behave the same way. It is another word for ‘weird’ or ‘absurd’.

An eccentric person is not necessarily different from the group but is acting or reacting in a way that is noticeably different from others within the group.

For example, a goat in poultry cannot be considered eccentric. The goat is not meant to be in the poultry and will definitely stick out like a sore thumb. However, the goat is not eccentric.

This makes ‘eccentric’ not a 100% perfect synonym for ‘stick out like a sore thumb’

Among a group of chicks, one chick may start to act eccentrically in a way that makes the chick very noticeable.

Square peg in a round hole

This is one of the obvious idioms we have in English language. All it takes for you to understand this is a short moment of thought.

What is a square peg doing in a round hole? How is it going to fit in? Once you ask this question, you understand what the metaphor means

You can manage to make a square-shaped item go in a round hole. However, it will be very obvious from the edges that it is not meant to be there. A round item, on the other hand, will fit in perfectly and may even go unnoticed.

If you are trying to refer to someone or something that obviously isn’t in the right place or among the right group, you can use this idiom.

Fish out of water

When you compare something to a fish out of water, you are saying the thing is not where it is meant to be.

It is basically the same as comparing it to a square peg in a round hole but this takes a different direction.

‘Square peg in a round hole’ means a person is not fitting into a place. ‘Fish out of water’ means a person has left where he or she should fit in.

Both are correct synonyms for ‘Stick out like a sore thumb’ since the subject will always be noticeable.

Weird

This word is similar to eccentric and maybe even more popular. When you say something is weird, it means it is different from what you considered normal.

You can say a person or a thing feels weird. In that case, you may not know exactly why you feel this way but you just notice that a person or a thing among a group of others keeps coming into your view.

It may also be a person’s action or reaction that is noticeably weird when compared to that of others in the same group.

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