Keep a stiff upper lip

The idiom keep a stiff upper lip was popularized in the 1960s, but has been in use since at least the early 1800s. We will examine the meaning of the idiom keep a stiff upper lip, where it comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To keep a stiff upper lip means to be stoic, to display fortitude and restraint, to hold one’s emotions in check, especially when doing something that is emotionally difficult, unpleasant, or that involves some type of adversity. The phrase keep a stiff upper lip refers to holding one’s face in an unemotional, deadpan fashion so as not to betray emotions such as fear, distaste, revulsion, sorrow, etc. The expression keep a stiff upper lip was popularized by the novel Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse and published in 1963. Interestingly, the idiom keep a stiff upper lip originated as an American way to describe staying resolute without giving way to emotion. In time, Americans came to use the term to describe Englishmen. Related phrases are keeps a stiff upper lip, kept a stiff upper lip, keeping a stiff upper lip.

Examples

When the week was over and Missoula’s first chautauqua had run its course, the Missoulian tried to keep a stiff upper lip.  (The Fairfield Sun Times)

Aguilar, maybe the most unfailingly upbeat player in the Brewers clubhouse, admitted it’s been tough to keep a stiff upper lip throughout his struggles. (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

This is a humorous — but also inspiring story — of London during the World War II blitz of bombings and death and the British determination to keep a stiff upper lip and muddle through. (The Broomfield Enterprise)

The teenager kept a stiff upper lip in school, but he didn’t hide his pain from his family.  (Reader’s Digest)

Leave a Comment