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What Does Quote on Quote Mean?

“Quote on quote.” You’ve probably heard this phrase during conversations or maybe even used it yourself.

It’s a common misinterpretation of the correct phrase “quote unquote,” often used to emphasize quotations or convey a tone of irony or skepticism. Understanding and using these phrases accurately is essential for clear communication.

What Does Quote on Quote Mean

Let’s demystify “quote on quote” and “quote unquote,” exploring their correct meanings, origins, and usage.

Section 1: Clarifying “Quote on Quote” vs. “Quote-Unquote”

Have you ever heard someone say “quote on quote” and wondered what it meant?

Well, it turns out this is a classic case of mishearing.

The actual phrase is “quote unquote,” not “quote on quote.

This mix-up typically happens in spoken English, where the nuances of speech can lead to misunderstandings.

“Quote unquote” is used to indicate that the speaker is quoting something verbatim or highlighting a word or phrase for emphasis, irony, or skepticism.

In contrast, “quote on quote” doesn’t really have a defined meaning and is more of a common error. Knowing the difference helps in both understanding others and being understood.

Section 2: The Origin of “Quote-Unquote”

The phrase “quote-unquote” has its roots in the oral tradition of indicating quotations. When reading aloud, a speaker might say “quote” before starting the quotation and “unquote” at the end to signal the conclusion of the quote.

This practice helps listeners differentiate between the speaker’s words and the quoted words.

Over time, “quote unquote” evolved beyond literal quoting.

Today, it’s widely used in everyday conversation and media, serving not only to quote verbatim but also to cast doubt, show disagreement, or convey irony.

Section 3: Understanding the Usage of “Quote-Unquote”

How do we use “quote unquote” correctly? Its most traditional use is in spoken language to signal the beginning and end of a direct quote. For example, a speaker might say, “He said, quote, it’s not you, it’s me, unquote.”

But “quote unquote” also comes in handy to highlight a word or phrase for special attention, often with a tone of skepticism or irony. For instance, “She is his ‘quote unquote’ friend,” can imply that their friendship is not straightforward.

Section 4: Examples of quote unquote in Context

Let’s look at “quote-unquote” in action. This phrase can change the tone or meaning of a sentence based on its usage. Here are some examples:

  1. Direct Quotation:
    • In a speech: “The candidate said, quote, we will change the world, unquote.”
    • This usage makes it clear that the words between “quote” and “unquote” are directly taken from the candidate’s speech.
  2. Irony or Sarcasm:
    • In conversation: “So you met her ‘quote-unquote’ boyfriend?”
    • Here, the phrase indicates that the word “boyfriend” might not accurately describe the relationship.

Section 5: Tips for Using “Quote-Unquote” Effectively

Using “quote-unquote” appropriately is all about context. Here are some tips:

  • Context is Key: Use “quote-unquote” when you need to quote someone verbatim, especially in spoken language. It’s also useful for highlighting a word or phrase to convey an alternative meaning like irony or skepticism.
  • Tone Matters: The way you say “quote-unquote” can convey different meanings. A sarcastic tone can turn an ordinary word into a skeptical one.
  • Avoid Overuse: While “quote-unquote” is a handy tool, overusing it can make your speech or writing unclear or cumbersome. Use it sparingly for maximum impact.


The phrase “quote-unquote” is more than just a pair of words; it’s a versatile tool in our language arsenal.

Understanding the difference between the commonly misheard “quote on quote” and the correct “quote unquote” ensures that you’re using the phrase properly to enhance your communication.

Whether it’s to directly quote someone or to add a layer of meaning to a word or phrase, “quote-unquote” can add depth and clarity to your language.

What to do next?

Have you ever used “quote-unquote” in a conversation or speech? Or perhaps you’ve heard the “quote on quote” version?

Share your experiences and how this article might change your use of these phrases.

For more fascinating insights into language and communication, keep exploring our site and check out our interactive quizzes and resources!


I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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