tell it to the marines

tell it to the marines


  1. of or relating to the sea; existing in or produced by the sea: marine vegetation.
  2. pertaining to navigation or shipping; nautical; naval; maritime.
  3. serving on shipboard, as soldiers.
  4. of or belonging to the marines.
  5. adapted for use at sea: a marine barometer.


  1. a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
  2. one of a class of naval troops serving both on shipboard and on land.
  3. seagoing ships collectively, especially with reference to nationality or class; shipping in general.
  4. a picture with a marine subject; seascape.
  5. naval affairs, or the department of a government, as in France, having to do with such affairs.


  1. dead marine, Australian Slang. an empty bottle of beer or spirits.
  2. tell it/that to the marines! I don’t believe your story; I refuse to be fooled.

adjective (usually prenominal)

  1. of, found in, or relating to the sea
  2. of or relating to shipping, navigation, etc
  3. of or relating to a body of seagoing troopsmarine corps
  4. of or relating to a government department concerned with maritime affairs
  5. used or adapted for use at seaa marine camera


  1. shipping and navigation in generalthe merchant marine
  2. (capital when part of a name) a member of a marine corps or similar body
  3. a picture of a ship, seascape, etc
  4. tell it to the marines informal an expression of disbelief

n.14c., “seacoast;” see marine (adj.). Meaning “collective shipping of a country” is from 1660s. Meaning “soldier who serves on a ship” is from 1670s, a separate borrowing from French marine, from the French adjective. Phrase tell that to the marines (1806) originally was the first half of a retort expressing skepticism: “Upon my soul, sir,” answered the lieutenant, “when I thought she scorned my passion, I wept like a child.””Belay there!” cried the captain; “you may tell that to the marines, but I’ll be d—-d if the sailors will believe it.” [“John Moore,” “The Post-Captain; or, the Wooden Walls Well Manned,” 1805] The book, a rollicking sea romance/adventure novel, was popular in its day and the remark is a recurring punch line in it (repeated at least four times). It was written by naval veteran John Davis (1774-1854) but published under the name John Moore. Walsh records that, “The marines are among the ‘jolly’ jack-tars a proverbially gullible lot, capable of swallowing any yarn, in size varying from a yawl-boat to a full-rigged frigate.” adj.early 15c., “pertaining to the sea,” from Middle French marin, from Old French marin “of the sea, maritime,” from Latin marinus “of the sea,” from mare “sea, the sea, seawater,” from PIE *mori- “body of water, lake” (see mere (n.)). The Old English word was sælic.

  1. Relating to the sea.
  2. Relating to a system of open-ocean and unprotected coastal habitats, characterized by exposure to wave action, tidal fluctuation, and ocean currents and by the absence of trees, shrubs, or emergent vegetation. Water in the marine system is at or near the full salinity of seawater. Compare lacustrine palustrine riverine.

Go fool someone else because I won’t believe that. For example, He’s a millionaire? Tell it to the Marines! This term originated among British sailors, who regarded marines as naive and gullible. [c. 1800]

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