stiff upper lip: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘stiff upper lip’ mean?

The idiom stiff upper lip refers to the act of showing courage and resilience in the face of adversity, particularly in difficult or emotional situations, by maintaining a composed and unemotional exterior.

Idiom Explorer

Resolute British Stoicism

The idiom "stiff upper lip" is a well-known phrase associated with British stoicism. It describes someone who remains brave and unemotional in tough situations. The concept of the stiff upper lip is closely tied to British culture, emphasizing restraint and keeping emotions private. It has often been seen in literature, particularly during times of crisis, such as World War II.

One theory suggests that the term "upper lip" refers to how emotions are physically controlled and concealed. When faced with difficulty, a person may suppress their emotions by pressing their lips firmly together, showing composure and resolve. The word "stiff" conveys the idea of maintaining a firm and unbending demeanor, regardless of the challenges faced.

The stiff upper lip is about rigidity and inflexibility. It means remaining composed and not giving in to emotional displays. It encourages individuals to toughen up and man up when confronted with adversity or pain. It's about doing it tough and holding one's nerve.

The British soldier remained composed, displaying stoic resilience.

In times of crisis, like World War II, the stiff upper lip was exemplified by people like Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He urged the British people to stay strong and carry on. His speeches encouraged courage and resilience in the face of adversity.

Today, the stiff upper lip continues to be used to remind individuals to stay composed and resilient during challenging circumstances. It serves as a reminder to suck it up and face difficulties with fortitude. It's a way of saying "don't give up" and "keep going" when the going gets tough.

While the origins of the phrase are rooted in British culture, its meaning and interpretation have transcended geographical boundaries. The idea of maintaining composure and resolve in difficult times is universally applicable and resonates with individuals across cultures and backgrounds.

The stiff upper lip symbolizes the concept of maintaining a steadfast and unemotional demeanor. It represents resilience, self-control, and determination in the face of hardship. Its enduring popularity reflects the timeless nature of this idiom and its ability to inspire individuals to face adversity head-on.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "stiff upper lip" can be used in a sentence:

  1. Despite facing extreme hardship, she maintained a stiff upper lip and never let her emotions show.
  2. He was disappointed with the results, but he kept a stiff upper lip and didn't let it affect his confidence.
  3. Even though she was nervous, she put on a brave face and kept a stiff upper lip throughout the difficult situation.

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