What does the idiom "put one's foot down" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase put one's foot down, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression put one's foot down used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "put one's foot down"


The phrase “put one’s foot down” is an informal idiom that is used to describe the act of taking a firm stance on some matter, often with the intention of asserting authority. It is typically used to indicate that the speaker is determined to settle the matter at hand, or to get the other person to abide by their decision. In essence, it is a metaphor that implies that the speaker is firmly planting their foot and refusing to budge.


The phrase “put one’s foot down” likely originated in the early 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the phrase was first used in print in 1818, in the novel The King of Kyrle by Theophilus Marzials. In the novel, the character Lady Rooksby is described as being “one who has always determined to put her foot down” when it comes to her own decisions. The phrase has been in use ever since, and is believed to have drawn from the idea that one’s feet represent one’s sense of self-control and authority.


The phrase “put one’s foot down” is typically used in a situation that calls for strong leadership or firm decision-making, often in the face of opposition. It is commonly used in a situation where someone is trying to impose their will on another person, or when one is trying to get the other person to adhere to their wishes. It can also be used when someone is trying to take command of a certain situation, or when they are trying to take a stand against someone else’s opinion.

Example Sentences

  • I'm tired of dealing with this issue. It's time for me to put my foot down and make a decision.
  • My boss refuses to listen to my ideas. I'm going to have to put my foot down if I want to make any progress.
  • My parents are always trying to control my life. I'm going to have to put my foot down and show them that I'm in charge.

The meanings of the words in the "put one's foot down" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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