I watched a movie (On the rocks) and saw this dialogue:

A: I went to Sergeant O'Callaghan, Timmy... I went to his beefsteak for his retirement...

B: That's my grandfather.

A: That's right. Gosh, I don't know why I didn't make you right away. You're a ringer, dead ringer.

I checked all meanings of "make" but couldn't see any meaning close to "recognize". But it obviously means "to recognize" here, am I wrong?

  • 5
    It is difficult to find...See: to make someone Nov 30, 2020 at 17:37
  • I had checked "make someone" too but got irrelevant results. Thank you so much!
    – aytug2001
    Nov 30, 2020 at 17:40
  • 5
    As in spy movies too: "I've been made (they are on to me)". Nov 30, 2020 at 17:49
  • 1
    If this is not VTCed heavily by EOD, I will post a real answer, in detail, tomorrow. Nov 30, 2020 at 21:19
  • 1
    Oh my Dog @MichaelHarvey ..."End of Day" (EOD) You must be retired longer than me. Nov 30, 2020 at 21:43

3 Answers 3


to make someone

to identify someone.


To identify one as a criminal or wrongdoer. Often used in passive constructions.


From the OP...

"I didn't make you"...

This particular usage of the idiomatic phrasal verb hinges on a possibly obscure American usage, as sometimes heard in Network crime dramas.

In my searches in the 2 pages of the OALD covering the verb, I cannot find a definition that fits. So...I guess it is an Americanism, and slang of some sort.

Our usual GR is Lexico...I cannot the usage there, or in Cambridge, McMillan, or Merriam Webster.

The normal phrase is passive in construction, such as ...

"He got made..."

As someone who worked both sides of the street in the 70s and 80s, I can attest that this is a real idiom.

  • General reference. Dec 1, 2020 at 19:58
  • @EdwinAshworth It's not...find me a reference that defines it, apart from what I sourced. If you can, I will delete the A. As mentioned in my post, I cannot find it in OALD. Dec 1, 2020 at 19:59
  • {"make someone" + meaning} takes one straight there. I'm pretty sure the Farlex Dictionary of Idioms is listed as being general reference, and the unusual usage marks this as being an idiom. Dec 1, 2020 at 20:05
  • Our usual GR is Lexico...if the usage is not there, and not in Cambridge, and not in McMillan, and not in MW, and not in OALD...how is this GR? That is asking an OP to go above and beyond the normal. The Q is legit. Just let it go, OK? Isn't this part of our purpose here, to define arcane terms? Dec 1, 2020 at 20:08
  • You need to look on ELU.Meta for the list of works considered general reference. // It's a pretty well-known usage, in the UK as well as the US. Dec 1, 2020 at 20:11


15a: to conclude as to the nature or meaning of something
what do you make of this development?
b: to regard as being
not the fool some make him

The use you are asking about likely developed out of this meaning: to "make" someone in the sense you are discussing is to identify someone's nature. See also Usage of the phrase "We have been made." .

BTW, when you're mentioning a word, rather than using it for its meaning, as you are with the word "make", you should make that clear, such as by putting it in quotes.


"to make (something) out" is the very common version we use in British English.


I can't make out the writing on this letter.

I can't make him out. Is he wearing camouflage?


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