Today I heard the phrase 'playing hard to get'.

What is its meaning?

Is this phrase commonly used in English speaking countries?


3 Answers 3


Often in romantic relationships, this is where someone may make it difficult for the other person to pursue a relationship by having limited availability, being mean or a few other factors that make having the relationship a challenging goal.

It is a commonly used phrase in some circles. In March 2014, a magazine called "Psychology Today" had an article on When Should You Play Hard to Get? as an example of its use.


Being "hard to get" is the idea of not displaying interest when you have it. The end goal of this action is to increase the affection the opposing side displays and/or has for you.

It is often used in romantic pursuits:

"She's playing hard to get!" - would translate to - "She likes me, she just doesn't want to show it".

Keep in mind, that it can be used by native speakers in any context that linguistics allow it:

"How did the meeting go?", "They are playing hard to get, but they have no other choice than to accept our terms." - would mean - "They are pretending not to be interested so we can make them a better offer, but they..."

However, it is important to note that the term is commonly used by the receiving side of the said action. This means the side that is "hard to get" may not have any actual interest in said person, or object, at all but for various reasons such as ego, clouded judgement, misunderstanding and/or others, is falsely alleged to.

"I asked her out and tried to kiss her but she's playing hard to get" - whereas her thoughs might be - "I barely even know him, why would he do that?" implying she has no interest in him, despite his beliefs.

Source: My surroundings and experience.


The meaning of this phrase is:

To ​pretend that you are less ​interested in someone than you really are as a way of making them more ​interested in you, ​especially at the ​start of a ​romantic ​relationship

Example: Why won't you ​call him back? Are you ​playing hard to get?

Quoted verbatim from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

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