French phrases

Do you like riddles? Are you skilled at them? Do you have magic skills when it comes to solving mysteries? Prove it by reading this article and deciphering the meaning of this “expression imagée”!

The history of the expression

There’s the belief that this turn of phrase originated in the XV century with a game. People say that little girls used to play a game where they put pins (épingles) in a circle previously drawn on the floor next to a wall. The goal was to make the pins come out (tirer) of the circle. They had to take a ball, strike the wall with it so that it rebounded in the circle, making the pins come out. 


Are you getting closer to the meaning of this phrase? Tu as pu tirer ton épingle du jeu? Keep on reading if you want to make sure you got it. 

Some examples of use

  • Mercedes-Benz a toutefois réussi à tirer son épingle du jeu avec la Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet. (Mercedes-Benz survived the situation thanks to the Vision Mercedes-Maybach Cabriolet)
  • Toutes les grandes localités canadiennes appuient les études de ce genre, car elles montrent à quel point le Canada parvient à tirer son épingle du jeu. (All the big canadian localities support this kind of study, since they show the extent to which Canada can get through difficulties)

Did you find the meaning?

Indeed, this expression makes reference to the ability of pulling yourself out gracefully from a difficult situation or when you free yourself on time from a business that’s crumbling down. It can also be used when you get some benefits from a bad situation. 


If we think of the game that originated this expression, another goal was of course to win, but at a minimum the players had in mind to get back what they invested on the game. In this way, “tirer son épingle du jeu” means to succeed in saving one’s cause.

Can you think of other situations where you can use this expression imagée? Would you say this differently in your language(s)?


We have set up some quizzes so that you can better understand this expression. Just click below to access these quizzes.


Written by Ingrid Hernadez

French phrases

French phrases