sick to the back teeth: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘sick to the back teeth’ mean?

The idiom "sick to the back teeth" means to be extremely fed up or annoyed with something, often to the point of feeling disgusted or disgustedly bored.

Idiom Explorer


The idiom "sick to the back teeth" is a common expression used in the English language. It is often used to convey a strong sense of annoyance, frustration, or exasperation with something or someone. In other words, when a person is tired of someone or something, they have reached a point where they are completely fed up or disgusted.

When examining the phrase more closely, the first thing to note is its literal meaning. The back teeth are located toward the rear of the mouth and play a crucial role in chewing and grinding food. Therefore, the idiom "sick to the back teeth" could be understood as being so overwhelmed or disgusted that one's teeth, especially the back teeth, are affected by the feeling of sickness.

While the specific origins of this idiom are difficult to trace, it is believed to have originated in the late 19th or early 20th century. It is firmly established in the vernacular of English speakers, particularly in the United Kingdom. Over time, the idiom has gained popularity and usage has spread to other English-speaking countries, including the United States.

Exhaustion adds to the frustration of being sick.

It is worth mentioning that the phrase "sick to the back teeth" shares similarities with other idiomatic expressions using the word "sick," such as "sick and tired" or "sick at heart." These expressions all convey a sense of being fed up or disgusted, but "sick to the back teeth" adds an extra emphasis to the level of annoyance or weariness felt.

One related idiom is "sick and tired." This expression is often used interchangeably with "sick to the back teeth" to convey a deep sense of frustration or annoyance. When someone says they are "sick and tired," they are expressing their extreme discontentment or weariness with a person, situation, or thing. It is a way of highlighting their exasperation and the fact that they have reached the limit of their patience or tolerance.

This idiom can be used in various contexts, both personally and professionally. For example, someone may say they are "sick to the back teeth" of their monotonous job, expressing their extreme discontentment with their work environment. In another scenario, a person might use this idiom to show frustration with a repeated behavior or action, such as constantly having to clean up after someone else. Similarly, "sick and tired" can be used in these situations to convey the same level of frustration and annoyance.

Another related idiom is "sick at heart," which also shares similarities with "sick to the back teeth." When someone is "sick at heart," they are experiencing a deep sense of sadness, anguish, or despair. It conveys a heavy emotional burden or grief that weighs on the person's heart. Like "sick to the back teeth," "sick at heart" conveys a strong and vivid emotion, but in the case of "sick at heart," it is more related to sadness or despair rather than frustration or annoyance.

The idiom "sick to the back teeth" is a vivid and expressive way to convey deep frustration or annoyance. Its usage has become ingrained in the English language and culture, providing a powerful tool to communicate one's weariness or exasperation. The idiom resonates with the experiences and emotions of individuals across different backgrounds, creating a lasting impact in the world of idiomatic expressions.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "sick to the back teeth" can be used in a sentence:

  1. After eating the same meal every day for a month, I'm sick to the back teeth of it.
  2. She's been telling the same story over and over again, and we're all sick to the back teeth of hearing it.
  3. I've had enough of his constant complaints. I'm sick to the back teeth of his whining.

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