bend someone’s ear: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘bend someone's ear’ mean?

The idiom bend someone's ear means to talk to someone for a long time, usually in a persuasive or annoying way.

Idiom Explorer

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The idiom "bend someone's ear" is a common expression in the English language. It means to talk to someone for an extended period of time or in a forceful manner.

This idiom can be traced back to the early 19th century. It is believed to have originated from the concept of physically bending someone's ear towards oneself to get their attention.

When someone "bends your ear," they essentially monopolize the conversation and occupy your attention. This can involve talking for a long time, sharing opinions or thoughts, or simply venting. The idiom implies a level of persistence and insistence on the part of the speaker.

The image of physically bending someone's ear towards oneself adds a vivid and tangible aspect to the idiom. It visualizes forcibly turning someone's head to listen attentively, ensuring that they cannot easily extricate themselves from the discussion. This suggests a certain level of control or dominance that the speaker has over the listener, demanding their full attention.

Now, let's explore how "bend someone's will" is related to the idiom "bend someone's ear."

Experienced writer delivers in-depth analysis targeting advanced readers, per The New York Times.

The idiom "bend someone's will" also involves exerting influence over someone through force or persistence. When you bend someone's will, you convince or persuade them to do something against their original intentions or wishes.

The phrase "give someone an earful" is another idiom related to "bend someone's ear." When you give someone an earful, you express your anger, frustration, or complaint to them in a forceful or extensive manner. It implies overwhelming the listener with a barrage of words.

On the other hand, the idiom "give ear" means to listen attentively or to pay close attention to what someone is saying. It signifies lending your ear to someone, showing interest and giving them your full attention.

Similarly, "lend an ear" means to listen carefully and considerately to someone's words or problems. It suggests offering your ear as a supportive gesture, providing comfort or assistance to the speaker.

Lastly, the idiom "burn someone's ears" is also connected to "bend someone's ear." When someone's ears are burning, it means they are being talked about or criticized by others.

The idiom "bend someone's ear" means to talk to someone extensively or forcefully. Its origin can be traced back to the 19th century, and it is commonly used in informal contexts. The image of physically bending someone's ear adds a visual element to the idiom, emphasizing the intensity and persistence of the speaker's communication. Related idioms such as "bend someone's will," "give someone an earful," "give ear," "lend an ear," and "burn someone's ears" all involve various aspects of listening, speaking, and exerting influence over others. When someone bends your ear, be prepared for a lengthy or emphatic conversation, whether it be a passionate idea, a complaint, or someone seeking your support.

Example usage


  • She bent his ear for hours, discussing her problems.
  • I need to bend my boss's ear about giving me a raise.
  • He bent her ear with his complaints about the new policy.

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