- skip - Brewer’s



(Latin, caput; Saxon, heāfod; Scotch, hafet; contracted into head.)

Better be the head of an ass than the tail of a horse. Better be foremost amongst commoners than the lowest of the aristocracy; better be the head of the yeomanry than the tail of the gentry. The Italians say, “E meglio esser testa di luccio che coda di sturione.”

He has a head on his shoulders. He is up to snuff (q.v.); he is a clever fellow, with brains in his head.

He has quite lost his head. He is in a quandary or quite confused.

I can make neither head nor tail of it. I cannot understand it at all. A gambling phrase.

Men with héads beneath the shoulders. (See Caora.)

Men without heads. (See Blemmyes.)

Off one’s head. Deranged; delirious; extremely excited. Here “head” means intelligence, understanding, etc. His intelligence or understanding has gone away.

To bundle one out head and heels. “Sans cérémonie,” altogether. The allusion is to a custom at one time far too frequent in cottages, for a whole family to sleep together in one bed head to heels or pednamʹenē, as it was termed in Cornwall; to bundle the whole lot out of bed was to turn them out head and heels.

To head off. To intercept.

To hit the nail on the head. You have guessed aright; you have done the right thing. The allusion is obvious. The French say, “Vous avez frappé au but” (You have hit the mark); the Italians have the phrase, “Havete dato in brocca” (You have hit the pitcher), alluding to a game where a pitcher stood in the place of Aunt Sally (q.v.). The Latin, “Rem acu tetigisti” (You have touched the thing with a needle), refers to the custom of probing sores.

To keep one’s head above water. To avoid bankruptcy. The allusion is to a person immersed in water; so long as his head is above water his life remains, but bad swimmers find it hard to keep their heads above water.

To lose one’s head. To be confused and mnddle-minded.

To make head. To get on.

previous entry · index · next entry


Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

previous entry · index · next entry

Hawker’s News
Hay, Hagh, or Haugh
Hayston (Frank)
Head Shaved (Get your)
Head and Ears
Head and Shoulders
Head of Cattle
Head over Heels (To turn)
Heads or Tails
Heads I Win, Tails you Lose
Healing Gold

Linking here:

Hit the Nail on the Head (To)