Bats in the Belfry: What Does this Idiom Mean?

“Bats in the belfry” is an idiom which is used commonly in both written language and spoken conversation. Many people may be wondering where this saying made its origins and what it means when it is used on conversation. Let’s take a look a little deeper into the phrase and answer these questions.

Bats in the Belfry

Bats in the Belfry Meaning

The meaning of the term “bats in the belfry” is someone who appears to be a little crazy or mad. A belfry is one of the top most parts of a church where bats can often be found. When those bats are flying around the confined space of the belfry, it gets a little insane in there. When using the phrase metaphorically, one is making the reference that this loopy person has bats flying around in his head.

Origin of this idiomatic expression

The origins of this saying can be found in the very late 1800s, in America. One of the earliest records of this saying can be found in a patient summary of someone who was charged with lunacy. The phrase did not make it over to the United Kingdom for some years, with evidence that the term was not in use there by 1903.

“Bats in the Belfry” Examples

Example Sentences

You might use the term in an endearing sense when telling a loved one that their idea is a little out there.

  • “You can’t do that, you must have bats in the belfry.”

However, the term can also be used in a more derogatory way to describe someone who certainly does have mental health issues.

  • “You want to keep away from that Sarah, she has bats in the belfry.”

Other examples:

  • If somebody has bats in the belfry, they are slightly mad or eccentric.
  • The poor man must have bats in the belfry – he wears such peculiar clothes.
  • You cannot believe a word she says because she is bats in the belfry.

Conversation Examples

There are a number of conversations in which you might hear the term “bats in the belfry”. Some of those conversations are likely to look and sound a little like some of these examples.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: Did you see the way that Joan was acting at the party?
  • Person 2: Yes, she certainly seemed to have bats in the belfry.

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: I feel like I am losing my mind with this project.
  • Person 2: Are you going a little crazy with it?
  • Person 1: I’m sure I have bats in the belfry.

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are many ways to refer to the idea of someone being a little crazy, and bats in the belfry is just one of them. Some other terms that express the same meaning are:

  • She’s one sandwich short of a picnic
  • He is totally bonkers
  • Crazy
  • Mad
  • Insane

Bats in the Belfry | Picture

Bats in the BelfryPin