Hard-Headed

Also:

hardheaded
hard head

Meaning of Idiom ‘Hard-Headed’

1. To be hard-headed usually means to be stubborn and inflexible; to not be willing to change one’s opinion or position; to be extremely willful. 1Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.2”hardheaded.” Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. 2015. Farlex, Inc 26 Sep. 2018 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/hardheaded

2. Clever and shrewd; practical; realistic; not overly influenced by emotions. 3Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M.  The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.


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Usage

In addition to being hard-headed, one can also be said to “have a hard head.” This variation of the idiom carries the same meaning: “Marry is hard-headed when it comes to her children’s education” means the same as “Marry has a hard head when it comes to her children’s education.”

Examples Of Use

“Our son is so hard-headed about certain things. He’s now insisting that he wants to travel to Europe for a year before college.”

“Stop being so hardheaded,” said Parker to Dana. “You are too sick to be out of bed.”

“You shouldn’t get a bulldog. They are known for being hard-headed.”

“The hard-headed businessman is no longer seen in such a flattering light. Today, people expect a business to have a heart.”

“He got his start in business the old-fashioned way and is still as hard-headed and penny-pinching as ever.”

Origin

This idiom has been used since the late 1800s. The earliest meaning is the second one, similar to the definition given in the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (1906):

“Shrewd; intelligent or clearheaded and firm; not easily deceived or humbugged: as a hard-headed politician.”

In those days, to be hard-headed was to be sensible and practical. Similar to many idioms where the head refers to the mind, the idiom seems to suggest a firm and sound mind. Today, it is more often used to mean stubborn and inflexible; not open-minded.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Brenner, Gail Abel. Webster’s New World American Idioms Handbook. Wiley, 2003.
2. ”hardheaded.” Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. 2015. Farlex, Inc 26 Sep. 2018 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/hardheaded
3. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M.  The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.