Turn heads and turn one’s head

Turn heads and turn one’s head are two idioms that are close in wording, but mean totally different things. We will examine the meaning of the common idioms turn heads and turn one’s head, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

Turn heads means to impress people and garner attention; one may turn heads because of something positive or something negative. For instance, one may turn heads because he is so handsome; one may also turn heads because he has done something extraordinary, like climbed Mt. Everest. Finally, one may turn heads because he has done something so outrageous; for instance, run naked down the street. The image is of someone turning his head to literally look at something or someone in astonishment. The expression turn heads has become quite popular in the past decade; it is often seen in titles for online clickbait articles. Related phrases are turns heads, turned heads, turning heads.

Turn one’s head means to cause someone to become conceited or smug in his or her accomplishments. For instance, praise may turn one’s head. Success may turn one’s head. The image conjured is of a person who is distracted by something unimportant. The expression turn one’s head to mean to cause to become conceited has dropped in popularity.

Examples

The chance to earn liquid assets is turning heads and converting rookies and longtime gamers alike to this disruptive model of play. (Newsweek)

UConn women’s basketball freshman Caroline Ducharme — the ‘silent assassin’ — is already turning heads in Storrs (Hartford Courant)

Meet six standout players who are turning heads for Ole Miss football during spring practice (Clarion Ledger)

‘His success turned his head completely — he started behaving as if he was a rock star!’ (Daily Mail)