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Is there an alternative idiom with the same meaning as "skin in the game"?

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    That depends: what does "skin in the game" mean? – Marthaª Dec 18 '10 at 0:04
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    Having skin in the game means that you are making a personal investment in an endeavor, usually referring to money invested. – Ken Aspeslagh Dec 18 '10 at 1:45
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    @Brian Donavan as an alternative to "no dog in the fight", you could probably say "you don't have a dog in the hunt" as suggested by Sven Yargs in I don't have a ___ in this ___ (saying) posted here on EL&U on Feb 2, 2015. Great bounty, but wouldn't this warrant a new question seeking antonyms for "skin in the game"? I thought of "watching life from the sidelines" when I read your reasons for starting the bounty. – bookmanu Oct 15 '18 at 16:54
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    Epidermis in the competition. – Hot Licks Oct 15 '18 at 18:03
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    A less colorful alternative to "skin in the game" might be "something [or anything] on the line." – Sven Yargs Oct 16 '18 at 15:50

12 Answers 12

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You could also say "dog in the fight" as in "He doesn't have a dog in this fight."

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"Skin in the game" is defined by Investopedia as

A term coined by renowned investor Warren Buffett referring to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock in the company they are running.

The idea behind creating this situation is to ensure that corporations are managed by like-minded individuals who share a stake in the company. Executives can talk all they want, but the best vote of confidence is putting one's own money on the line just like outside investors!

Buffett's original intention equated money with skin because losing either would be painful.

An alternative would be "stake in the result" where the stake is an investment of money, time, effort or even reputation.

Other alternatives include:

He has a piece of the action

He has money on the line

He has something to lose

He is a stakeholder

  • It should be noted that Warren Buffett has 100% denied that he had anything to do with the coining of that phrase, and William Safire went into depth on more likely possible origins. – Ben Lee Apr 23 '15 at 20:53
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"Put your money where your mouth is", based on the skin in the game's definition at answers.com

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    But they are not replacements as you can say "He has some skin in the game." – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 18 '10 at 1:31
  • The question is asking for alternatives, which I would think is something different from a replacement. – brainysmurf Dec 18 '10 at 2:45
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The idea of "skin in the game" as Buffet intended is more than just a stake in the outcome. One who has "skin in the game" not only has his own money invested, but he is part of the decision making process over his and other's investment. An investor has money on the line but he is at the mercy of the managers' business decisions. An executive who has no "skin in the game" makes the decisions for other's investment, but if it goes bad he does not lose any of his personal money and just walks away unharmed. In other words he gets to play the investment game without the same risk as those he is playing for.

An analogy might be the pilot of an airliner. His decisions in the cockpit will affect him just as surely as it will his passengers. He has "skin in the game". But if the pilot is on the ground flying the plane remotely from the airport bar, his decisions will still affect the health and well being of the passengers but not his own.

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He doesn't have a horse in the race.

I think I've heard that somewhere.

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You might be looking for something along the lines of: committed, invested, pledged, obligated, sworn, bound, performing, immersed, or dedicated. You can go to a thesaurus to get more related words and phrases.

More idiom based would be:

  • (their) duty
  • hell-bent
  • _____ or bust
  • life's work
  • _____ or die trying
  • ride/ing this one 'til the end
  • going down with the ship
  • 'til the wheels fall off
  • in it to win it
  • 'til death do us part
  • 'til the cows come home
  • not until the fat lady sings
  • I don't hear any/no fat lady singing
  • locked, cocked, and ready to rock
  • ain't getting rid of me that easy

You might also be interested in the business fable of the chicken and the pig.

Question: In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what's the difference between the Chicken and the Pig? Answer: The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed!

This can also told as:

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.
The Chicken says: "Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!"
Pig replies: "Hm, maybe, what would we call it?"
The Chicken responds: "How about 'ham-n-eggs'?"
The Pig thinks for a moment and says: "No thanks. I'd be committed, but you'd only be involved."

Most of this answer doesn't have the exact meaning as "skin in the game", but they are all similar and many have stronger connotations.

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You might prefer "no sweat off my back". Presumably the kind of work you're meaning is the sort that has for its goal the improvement of efficiency for company workers. If you mean to convey that you are no longer interested in doing that work because you do not intend to benefit personally from the increased efficiency, "no sweat off my back", meaning "that causes no problem for me", is appropriate.

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You could say it another way like this "ante in the pot/pool/kitty"

He had no ante in the kitty, so to speak, and so didn't care about it either.

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/ante

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/kitty

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Not exactly the same as skin in the game, but similar enough to mention, especially given the context of the question, there is also have a finger in the pie, meaning to have involvement with something, often by having a stake, financial interest or influence. The phrase is often used negatively - the finger may be an unwanted interference with the pie - but this isn't necessarily the case at all.

Cambridge Advanced Learner's defines it as follows:

have a finger in the pie

to be involved in something, often when your involvement is not wanted

When new projects were under consideration he was in a position to have a finger in the pie, and he was able to borrow freely from a local bank in which he was a director.

The above example sentence doesn't appear to be negative in any way.

However, in Oxford Living, all the examples given carry the sense of an interfering or meddling involvement:

have a finger in the pie (phrase)

Be involved in a matter, especially in an annoyingly interfering way.

After all, why should my boss (and for people working in government agencies the ‘boss’ is often the state) have a finger in the pie?

‘I have no doubt that someone in the institution has a finger in the pie,’ he said.

No doubt the Ministry of Health has had a finger in the pie.

One can also be said to have fingers in many pies, which can (again, not necessarily) carry the connotation of spreading yourself too thin. (Fingers in too many pies is also said.)

If particularly influential and perhaps powerful or busy (and perhaps very meddlesome), you can have a finger in every pie.


Edit: Just found this answer to another question which gives a more thorough analysis of these phrases, their history and their connotation than I could ever have hoped for - well worth a read.

  • have a finger in a pie means to be messing with something; screwing it up. – Lambie Oct 20 '18 at 16:50
  • The dictionaries I've looked at would disagree... it means to be involved with something, albeit perhaps an unwanted or meddlesome involvement. (I think the answer covers that fully, and the answer linked at the bottom expands more into the possible negative connotations.) – tmgr Oct 20 '18 at 17:22
  • If you are retiring, you no longer have anything at stake regarding your job, it's over. That is not like saying: I no longer have my finger(s) in the pie as that always implies something somewhat negative. – Lambie Oct 20 '18 at 17:29
  • I know what you're saying now! The sources disagree, however. It isn't always negative. It's sometimes quite neutral. (Again, see the link to the other answer at the bottom.) Re the particular case at hand, they want a phrase to use in reference to discussions which concern a time when they won't be there. Concerning a particular ongoing project, I don't see why they couldn't say "I no longer have a finger in that pie." – tmgr Oct 20 '18 at 17:44
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Have / play a part in something, from The Free Dictionary:

To be involved in some capacity with establishing, maintaining, or running something.

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If you were about to retire gracefully from politics (with the cleanest hands and clearest conscience possible), you could perhaps justify your position (i.e., your decision to abstain from further voting) by declaring yourself “a lame duck with no [more] pork in the barrel.”

(“If you refer to a politician or a government as a lame duck, you mean that they have little real power, for example, because their period of office is coming to an end.” [from collinsdictionary.com])


To the extent that you might be retiring from an occupation where politics of the office/department variety is sometimes/too often present, perhaps you could extend the notion of “lame duck” to help make your point and say:

As a lame-duck member of this [distinguished] faculty/department I feel obliged/it best to abstain from voting/deliberating on matters/a future/ in which I will have no part to play.

(cf: "Governor Scott will not, and he has no part to play in these appointments." [from thenewstribune.com/paragraph 13])

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  • no chum in the water (chum attracts sharks)
  • no honey for the flies (you catch more flies with honey)
  • no nest eggs for the chickens (nest eggs make hens lay more eggs)
  • no bait on the hook (to lure fish)
  • no cheese for the rats (
  • no cream for the cats
  • no corn for the crows
  • no seed for the crop

Apparently, investing their own money early in the game sweetens the pot and encourages others to follow suit. And the more people are interested in buying a particular stock, the higher the price per share. Then after it has gone up enough, they sell a large portion of their holdings at a huge profit. It's a psychological ploy.

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    Is this answer incomplete? The lack of closing parenthesis perturbs me. – Laurel Oct 19 '18 at 2:50

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