Butt heads and bump heads

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Butt heads and bump heads are idioms that mean the same thing but are more common in different parts of the world. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition.

We will examine the meaning of the idioms butt heads and bump heads, where they came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

The idioms butt heads and bump heads mean to come into conflict, to argue, to clash, to be in opposition, to disagree strongly, to compete. The idioms butt heads and bump heads did not come into popular usage until the latter half of the twentieth century, which is surprising because it is derived from a natural phenomenon.

The expressions butt heads and bump heads come from the habit of horned animals to run at each other and collide in the form of a headbutt. This behavior is well-known in the animal kingdom. The American Big Horn Sheep is particularly known for this practice, and during rutting season the sound of their combat can carry a long distance. Butt heads is mostly used in North American English, and bump heads is mostly used in British English, though the phrase butt heads is five times as popular as the phrase bump heads.

The word butt came into use as a verb sometime in the 1500s, but the idioms butt heads and bump heads did not come into use until much later. Related phrases are butts heads, butted heads, butting heads, bumps heads, bumping heads, butting heads.


During a sneak preview for an upcoming episode of KUWTK, the KKW Beauty mogul, 30, and Poosh.com founder, 40, butt heads over what snacks should be served on their daughters’ special day. (Life & Style Magazine)

The Jungle Jailhouse twist saw Jacqueline Jossa, Andrew Maxwell and Kate Garraway butt heads in Thursday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Here. (The Daily Mail)

That’s where Boeing and Airbus really bump heads and that market is attracting new competitors from Japan, Russia, Canada, Brazil and China. (The Columbian)

He said: “Fans can expect to watch Calvin and Joe continuously bump heads with Forty [the owner of the store, played by James Scully] throughout the season. (Newsweek)