Drop-dead vs drop dead!

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Drop-dead and drop dead! are two similar terms that have a related meaning but are used in very different circumstances. We will look at the meanings of the terms drop-dead and drop dead!, where these two phrases came from and how they are used, as well as some examples of their use in sentences.

Drop-dead means strikingly attractive, spectacular, extremely impressive. Drop-dead is an adjective that is usually used before a noun, though it may occasionally be seen standing on its own. The idea is that something is so strikingly attractive that it makes the beholder swoon. It is often used in the term drop-dead gorgeous, meaning a woman who is unbelievable beautiful. Drop-dead to mean strikingly attractive was coined in America in the early 1960s, originally mostly used in the fashion industry. Note that the adjective form is properly rendered with a hyphen.

Drop dead! Is an interjection which one hurls at someone who is extremely disliked. This is used in a figurative sense, it does not mean that the speaker is actually cursing the person in question with death. Coined in America in the 1930s, drop dead! is interchangeable with the phrases get lost! or bug off! None of these terms are meant literally, they are simply a signal to leave the speaker alone as he is becoming angry. The term drop dead! is considered a somewhat childish interjection and is not usually used in polite conversation or formal English. Of course, the term drop dead may on occasion also apply to someone who literally died.


Deepika Padukone was spotted for the second time at the New York Fashion Week, and again, looking drop-dead gorgeous. (India Today)

‘Drop dead, media!’ Trump fans yelled — then bought the local papers (The Washington Post)

With his older brother dead after a poison attack in Kuala Lumpur’s airport, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has seen yet another potential rival drop dead. (New York Magazine)