Keep a Stiff Upper Lip

Meaning of Idiom ‘Keep a Stiff Upper Lip’

To keep a stiff upper lip means to appear calm and to not show your emotions, especially during upsetting or painful situations; to be steadfast and courageous. British people are stereotypically believed to be very good at keeping a stiff upper lip. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Usage

“Growing up, we had many bad times, but we were taught to keep a stiff upper lip.”

“It was so unusual to see Mr. Farley upset. He always keeps a stiff upper lip.”

Origin

Used since the early 1800’s, the idiom probably alludes to how your upper lip trembles or quivers just before you begin to cry. Thus, the idiom refers to holding in feelings and not allowing any outward displays of emotion.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.