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| Compound words, Idiom

Heavy-handed is an idiom that is also a compound word. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom heavy-handed, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Heavy-handed means overbearing, harsh, excessive, and forceful. Heavy-handed also means clumsy, inept, awkward, or tactless. Something that is heavy-handed is accomplished without finesse. The idiom heavy-handed is a hyphenated compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. The idiom heavy-handed came into use in the 1600s to mean weary; this definition is no longer used. The term heavy-handed reemerged in the 1870s to mean overbearing or excessive. Though the term is sometimes seen as an open compound word, or a word without a hyphen, the Oxford English Dictionary spells the term with a hyphen.


Centrist congressional Democrats have also begun to express doubts about the Biden administration’s heavy-handed approach to pandemic policy as vaccines and emerging treatment options have dramatically lessened the dangers of the virus for most people. (Denver Gazette)

The autopsy report was “pretty much consistent with what we believe, which is that Mario would still be here if not for the overaggressive heavy-handed tactics of the police,” Gonzalez’s mother’s attorney, Adante Pointer, told San Francisco’s KQED News. (Huffington Post)

He told Express.co.uk: “If you see governments becoming increasingly heavy-handed, I can understand that people start to wonder, ‘Is this part of a trend? We better be careful to ensure our rights’.” (Daily Express)

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