Helping You Understand English

Idiom: Not all it’s cracked up to be

Meaning and Use

If something is not all it’s cracked up to be, it is not as good as expected. It is common to use not all it’s cracked up to be when something is not as impressive as people claim. It is like saying something is not as good as people say it is. We use it to express disappointment about something.

cracked up sign

Why Crack?

While more common in British English than American English, one meaning of crack (as an adjective) is very good. Crack is one of those words with many meanings.

Here are several common phrases that use crack:

  • To take a crack at something is to try something.
  • To crack a joke is to tell a joke.
  • To crack a case is to solve a case (mystery).
  • To crack a book is to open it and read it.
  • To crack a safe is to successfully break into it.
  • To crack a vase is to break it.
  • To crack a smile is to smile after having a serious expression on your face.
  • To crack up is to burst into laughter OR to have an emotional breakdown.
  • To crack someone up is to make them laugh.
  • To crack under pressure is to lose control in a stressful situation.
  • To crack open a cold one is to open a beer.
  • To crack a door or window is to open it slightly.
  • If something falls through the cracks, it is overlooked or neglected.

Those are just some of the many uses of the word crack. If you look up crack in a dictionary, you’ll find even more. Here are a few images showing various types of cracks.

Things that might not be all they’re cracked up to be

The following things are some that people often use this expression with:

  • a movie, show, or play
  • a book
  • a tourist destination
  • a job
  • a relationship
  • a restaurant
  • a meal
  • a person

These are just some common examples of things people might use this phrase with. Pretty much anything that someone might say is very good, but that you think is not so good, could be described as being not all it’s cracked up to be.

Some examples of situations where we could say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be:

  • I can’t believe American Sniper was #1 on the New York Time’s Best Seller list. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Thailand was not all it’s cracked up to be. Even in winter it was too hot and full of tourists, but I did love the food.
  • The restaurant had excellent reviews, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Being a stay-at-home mom is not all it’s cracked up to be.
  • He didn’t think the carnival was all it was cracked up to be.

Alternatives to not all it’s cracked up to be

  • disappointing –> The carnival was disappointing. or The carnival was a huge disappointment.
  • a let down –> The carnival was a let down. or The carnival was a huge let down.

Care to take a crack at more idioms?

Check out more idioms like the end is in sight, hang in there, and more.

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Your Turn: Leave a comment or question below.

Have you ever experienced a disappointment because something was not all it was cracked up to be? What was it? How was the reality different from your expectation? Confused or have questions about this idiom? Feel free to ask below!