Idiom:  tickle the ivories / ivory

A grand piano with black and ivory-colored keys with idiom example: I can't believe you just wasted two hours watching YouTube videos of dogs tickling the ivories when you have homework to do!


Idiom:  tickle the ivories / tickle the ivory

  • play the piano

Note:  The white keys on the piano used to be made of ivory and are ivory-colored. To tickle someone is to touch their body lightly with your fingers so their body jerks or moves from the sensation (and the person often laughs).

This is an informal expression that's also a bit old-fashioned. 

Example sentences

— I learned to tickle the ivories from a very young age so I've been dreaming of getting a grand piano for most of my life.

— I can't believe you just wasted two hours watching YouTube videos of dogs tickling the ivories when you have homework to do!

— There's a beautiful singer tickling the ivory in the hotel lounge if you'd like to get a drink before dinner.

— My grandfather used to tickle the ivories for a living.

— Ooh, there's a grand piano! Let's go tickle the ivory.

— It's truly amazing that you can tickle the ivories for several hours straight.

— We've hired a jazz pianist to tickle the ivory at the Gala tomorrow night.

— A: I work in accounting. What do you do?  B: I'm in human resources but I tickle the ivories on the weekends.

— Oh, no. Is Sandy going to have her children tickle the ivories for us again?

— I can't possibly tickle the ivory. That piano is completely out of tune.

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