In The Teeth Of: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
October 31, 2023

The expression "in the teeth of" denotes undertaking something despite direct opposition or facing head-on challenges. It's like saying, "Despite the obstacles, I'll push through." Originating from nautical terminology, it refers to sailing directly into the wind. The phrase can be used in various contexts to describe actions taken in the face of adversity, resistance, or contrary conditions.

In short:

"In the teeth of" refers to facing direct opposition or challenges.

What Does "In the Teeth of" Mean?

This idiom is usually used to describe a situation where someone is facing strong opposition or going against difficult challenges. It's a vivid image, suggesting facing the biting end of something dangerous or challenging.

  • The phrase often suggests bravery or determination in facing these challenges.
  • It can be used in various contexts, from physical challenges to metaphorical ones.
  • Sometimes, the idiom can describe an unexpected or adverse condition.

There are also variations of this phrase, like "in the very teeth of," which emphasizes the intensity of the opposition.

Where Does "In the Teeth of" Come From?

The word “teeth” in this context is derived from the Old English word “tōth,” which is akin to the Old High German word “zand,” Latin “dens,” and Greek "odous." The idiom “in the teeth of” is used to describe something that happens or is done despite difficulties or opposition. For example, if a project is completed “in the teeth of” fierce opposition, it means that the project was completed despite strong resistance or objections. This phrase likely draws on the imagery of facing into the teeth of a strong wind or storm, symbolizing adversity and resistance.

10 Examples of "In the Teeth of" in Sentences

Here are some sentences to better understand the usage of this idiom:

  • She pursued her dreams in the teeth of many obstacles.
  • He stood up in the teeth of fierce criticism.
  • Even in the teeth of criticism, she confidently asserted her point, clearly showing she knew what she was talking about.
  • They struck a deal in the teeth of strong opposition from the board.
  • They continued their journey in the teeth of the storm.
  • In the teeth of adversity, she saw a glimmer of hope. That kept her going.
  • The pilot flew the plane in the teeth of strong winds.
  • She launched her startup in the teeth of the economic downturn.
  • The city thrived in the teeth of adversity.
  • He wrote that novel in the teeth of personal tragedies.

Examples of "In the Teeth of" in Pop Culture

The idiom has made its way into various facets of pop culture:

  • The movie Against All Odds showcases the protagonist's journey in the teeth of many challenges.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, in her book "In the Teeth of the Evidence," wrote: "Unless you take the view that footballers should be picked on their form as players, and not for personal conduct." The book is a collection of short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Montague Egg.
  • In the TV Movie "In the Teeth of Jaws," Steven Spielberg appears as himself. The movie is a documentary about the making of the iconic film "Jaws."
  • An article titled "In the Teeth of the Wind: South through the Pole" relates a story of modern exploration by the Belgians Alain Hubert and Dixie Dansercoer.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "In the Teeth of"

  • Against the grain
  • Contrary to
  • In defiance of

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "In the Teeth of":

  • What is the meaning of "in the teeth of"?

It means to face direct opposition or challenges.

  • Where did the idiom "in the teeth of" originate?

The idiom has maritime roots and is related to sailing against the wind.

  • How can I use "in the teeth of" in a sentence?

You can use it to depict facing challenges or opposition, like "He pursued his goal in the teeth of strong opposition."

  • Is the idiom commonly used today?

Yes, it's still used to emphasize determination and facing challenges.

  • Can "in the teeth of" have a literal meaning?

While it usually has a figurative meaning, it originally referred to sailing directly against the wind in maritime contexts.

  • Are there variations of this idiom?

Yes, "in the very teeth of" is a more intense version of the phrase.

  • What's the opposite of "in the teeth of"?

"With the wind at one's back" could be seen as an opposite, indicating favorable conditions.

  • Is it used more in British or American English?

The idiom is used in both variants of English, with no particular preference.

  • Can it be used in a positive context?

Generally, it's used to highlight challenges. However, the outcome can be positive, such as achieving something "in the teeth of" odds.

  • Is "in the teeth of" a metaphor?

Yes, it's a metaphorical expression, painting a vivid image of facing the biting end of a challenge.

Final Thoughts About "In the Teeth of"

"In the teeth of" is an expression used to convey the idea of doing something despite strong opposition, difficulty, or adverse conditions. When someone acts "in the teeth of" something, they bravely face or challenge a formidable obstacle.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It emphasizes determination and resilience.
  • It has historical and maritime roots.
  • Despite its challenges, the idiom often signifies a successful outcome against all odds.

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