The hill you want to die on

  • The idiom the hill you want to die on has become increasing popular since the 1980s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom the hill you want to die on, from where this expression is derived, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    The hill you want to die on describes something so important to you that you are willing to fight to the death to accomplish it. Often, the idiom the hill you want to die on is used when describing something that will make or break one’s reputation, or result in either glory or ignominy. The phrase is often used in a question: Is this the hill you want to die on? This question may be considered a warning that taking a certain stance will probably result in defeat of one sort or another. The idiom the hill you want to die on is derived from a military term. Fighting to take the position of a hill from an enemy is nearly impossible and results in mass casualties. One must be sure that the hill is worth the cost of taking it.



    So it’s certainly fair to say your piece to him once, out loud, clearly, then listen to his answer, then use it to decide whether his clothes are the hill you want to die on. (The Washington Post)

    If you have a supportive and doting partner, is this really the hill you want to die on while quibbling over semantics? (Time Magazine)

    “Cautionary note to Democrats and the media: The golf simulator that President Trump installed in the White House to replace the less sophisticated one President Obama installed in the White House is not the hill you want to die on.” — Dylan Byers, media reporter, NBC. (The Daily Caller)

    “Things change, society evolves, and you want to get hung up on a word that hurts people’s feelings – that’s the hill you want to die on?” (BeatRoute Magazine)

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