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

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does put one's foot down mean? In what situations is put one's foot down used?

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

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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