Up to One's Ears

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Up to one's eyes/eyeballs
Up to one's neck

Meaning of Idiom 'Up to One's Ears (in/with something)'

To be up to your ears in something means to be extremely busy or preoccupied with it or to have too much of it. 1,2,3


One can be up to one's ears in or with anything that is considered too much, especially when this takes one's attention away from other things.


"I'm up to my ears in idioms here. This website will never be done!"

"I can't go to the movies tonight. I'm up to my ears in housework."

"They sent me the wrong merchandise. I'm up to my ears in plastic cups and paper napkins!"

"He's up to his neck in legal headaches."

"Jane is up to her ears with her family reunion. She's never even met most of them!"


The eyes version of this idiom may be the earliest, first recorded in 1778. The ears and neck versions, however, are the most commonly used and were first recorded in 1839 and 1856.

The allusion here is to being almost submerged in or flooded with something. 1

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.
3. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.

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