Laugh like a drain


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Laugh like a drain'?

To laugh coarsely or loudly, especially at the discomfort of others.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Laugh like a drain'?

This is a UK phrase, from around the time of WWII. It is first recorded by Eric Partridge in A dictionary of forces’ slang 1939–45, 1948. He describes it as ‘Ward-room and also Army officers’ slang‘.

The reason why drain was picked for this simile isn’t clear. Most similes include items that especially display the property being described, e.g. as white as as snow. Drains don’t immediately make one think of laughter, although the gurgling sound might have been thought of as being similar to chuckling.

See also – ‘as x as y‘ similes.

Trend of laugh like a drain in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.