What does the idiom "take the bull by the horns" 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 take the bull by the horns mean? In what situations is take the bull by the horns used?

Meaning of "take the bull by the horns"


The phrase ‘take the bull by the horns’ is used to describe someone who is taking a brave and decisive action to tackle a difficult problem or situation. It suggests that instead of avoiding the challenge, the person boldly confronts the problem head-on in order to come up with a solution.


The origins of this phrase date back to medieval times when bull-baiting was a popular form of entertainment. The bullfighter would grasp the bull’s horns and attempt to wrestle the animal to the ground. This imagery has been used as an analogy to describe someone who confronts a difficult challenge or problem without fear or hesitation.


This phrase is often used in informal contexts in order to emphasize the boldness of someone’s behavior. It can also be used as a metaphor to describe someone who is willing to take risks in order to achieve a goal.

Example Sentences

  • Rather than wait for a solution to present itself, John decided to take the bull by the horns and find a way to solve the problem.
  • The company was in trouble, but their CEO was determined to take the bull by the horns and set the business back on the right track.
  • If you want to achieve success, sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns and make it happen.

The meanings of the words in the "take the bull by the horns" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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