Conflict Idioms: 30 Useful Idioms for Discussion and Debate

We often come across idiomatic expressions in our daily conversations, especially when discussing disputes and disagreements. Conflict idioms hold a special place in the English language, as they creatively express the emotions and dynamics of conflicts. Utilizing these phrases can enrich our communication and enable us to convey our thoughts more vividly.

List of Conflict Idioms in English

  • (To Have) Been Through The Wars
  • (To Open Up a) Can of Whoop-Ass
  • Add Fuel To The Fire
  • Add Insult To Injury
  • Agree To Disagree
  • Ancient History
  • At Each Other’s Throats
  • At Loggerheads
  • Bad Blood
  • Clear the Air
  • Cut (Someone) to the Quick
  • Dead Ahead
  • Dirty Look
  • Game of Chicken
  • Get Bent Out of Shape
  • Give Someone a Piece of Your Mind
  • Have It Out with Someone
  • Let Bygones Be Bygones
  • On the Warpath
  • Pick a Fight
  • Pissing Contest
  • Rake Over the Ashes
  • Rub It In
  • Sore Point
  • Spoiling for a Fight
  • Stab Someone in the Back
  • Take Someone to Task
  • Throw Elbows
  • To Have a Chip on One’s Shoulder
  • Witch Hunt

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Conflict Idioms for Discussion with Meaning and Examples

Useful idiomatic expressions for debate and discussion in English.

(To Have) Been Through The Wars

  • Meaning: To have experienced a lot of difficulties or challenges. 
  • Example: He looked like he’d been through the wars, with bruises and bandages all over his body.

(To Open Up a) Can of Whoop-Ass

  • Meaning: To attack another person physically (very casual, slightly vulgar)
  • Example: He threatened to open up a can of whoop-ass if anyone tried to mess with him.

Add Fuel To The Fire

  • Meaning: To make a bad situation worse by doing or saying something that aggravates it. 
  • Example: He added fuel to the fire by making insulting comments about her appearance.

Add Insult To Injury

  • Meaning: To make a bad situation worse by doing or saying something that is hurtful or offensive. 
  • Example: He forgot her birthday and then added insult to injury by not apologizing.

Agree To Disagree

  • Meaning: To accept that two people have different opinions and to stop arguing about it. 
  • Example: They agreed to disagree about politics and decided to talk about something else.

Ancient History

  • Meaning: Something that happened a long time ago and is no longer relevant or important. 
  • Example: The argument they had last year is ancient history now, and they’ve moved on.

At Each Other’s Throats

  • Meaning: To be in a state of intense conflict or hostility with someone. 
  • Example: They were at each other’s throats over the division of their inheritance.

At Loggerheads

  • Meaning: To be in a state of disagreement or conflict that is difficult to resolve. 
  • Example: The two sides were at loggerheads over the terms of the contract and couldn’t come to an agreement.

Bad Blood

  • Meaning: A state of hostility or ill will between two people or groups. 
  • Example: There was bad blood between the two families, dating back to a feud that had started years ago.

Clear the Air

  • Meaning: To resolve a conflict or misunderstanding by discussing it openly and honestly. 
  • Example: They decided to clear the air and talk about what had been bothering them.

Cut (Someone) to the Quick

  • Meaning: To hurt someone deeply or emotionally. 
  • Example: His harsh words cut her to the quick, and she couldn’t stop crying.

Dead Ahead

  • Meaning: Straight ahead or directly in front of someone. 
  • Example: We were driving down the highway when we saw a huge traffic jam.

Dirty Look

  • Meaning: A look of disapproval or anger directed at someone. 
  • Example: She gave him a dirty look when he interrupted her during the meeting.

Game of Chicken

  • Meaning: A situation in which two people or groups engage in a dangerous or risky activity to see who will back down first
  • Example: They played a game of chicken, driving their cars straight at each other to see who would swerve first.

Get Bent Out of Shape

  • Meaning: To become upset, angry, or agitated about something. 
  • Example:  He got bent out of shape when he found out he hadn’t been invited to the party.

Give Someone a Piece of Your Mind

  • Meaning: Angrily tell someone what you think
  • Example: She gave him a piece of her mind for being late and causing them to miss the movie.

Have It Out with Someone

  • Meaning: To confront someone directly and honestly about a problem or issue. 
  • Example: She decided to have it out with her boss about the unfair treatment she had been receiving.

Let Bygones Be Bygones

  • Meaning: To forget about past conflicts or disagreements and move on. 
  • Example: They decided to let bygones be bygones and start fresh with their relationship.

On the Warpath

  • Meaning: To be angry or upset and looking for a confrontation or fight. 
  • Example: He was on the warpath after finding out he had been lied to.

Pick a Fight

  • Meaning: To intentionally start a fight or argument with someone. 
  • Example: He was in a bad mood and picked a fight with his friend for no reason.

Pissing Contest

  • Meaning: A situation in which two people or groups compete to prove their superiority or dominance. 
  • Example: The argument turned into a pissing contest, with each side trying to prove they were right.

Rake Over the Ashes

  • Meaning: To bring up old problems or conflicts and discuss them again, often causing more tension or conflict. 
  • Example: They decided not to rake over the ashes of their past relationship and instead focus on moving forward.

Rub It In

  • Meaning: To remind someone of their mistake or failure in a way that is hurtful or unhelpful. 
  • Example:  He rubbed it in that she had lost the game, even though she was already upset about it.

Sore Point

  • Meaning: A topic or issue that is sensitive or painful for someone. 
  • Example: His divorce was a sore point for him, and he didn’t like to talk about it.

Spoiling for a Fight

  • Meaning: To be eager or ready to start a fight or argument. 
  • Example: He was spoiling for a fight with anyone who disagreed with him.

Stab Someone in the Back

  • Meaning: To betray or deceive someone, often in a sneaky or underhanded way. 
  • Example: He stabbed his colleague in the back by taking credit for his work.

Take Someone to Task

  • Meaning: To criticize or reprimand someone for their behavior or actions. 
  • Example: He took his employee to task for being late to work every day.

Throw Elbows

  • Meaning: To use force or aggression to get ahead or make progress. 
  • Example: He had to throw elbows to get through the crowd and reach the front of the stage.

To Have a Chip on One’s Shoulder

  • Meaning: To be easily offended or defensive about something. 
  • Example: He had a chip on his shoulder about his height and didn’t like it when people made fun of him.

Witch Hunt

  • Meaning: An investigation or search for something that is often based on unfounded suspicions or accusations. 
  • Example: The investigation turned into a witch hunt, with innocent people being accused of wrongdoing.
Related Idiom List:

Last Updated on November 17, 2023

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