33 Teeth Idioms in English: Common Phrases and Their Meanings

Have you ever wondered why we say “gritting your teeth” when facing a tough challenge, or “bared teeth” when showing aggression? We’ll dive into the colorful and quirky world of idioms related to teeth. Get ready to uncover the hidden meanings behind these expressions and gain a whole new perspective on the language we use every day. So, brace yourself for a toothy adventure as we explore the fun and intriguing world of “Teeth Idioms”!

What Are Teeth Idioms?

When we talk about teeth idioms, we’re referring to phrases in the English language enshrining the word ‘teeth’ to convey meanings that transcend the literal interpretation. In these expressions, teeth symbolize more than just the physical components of our mouths. They bring to life characteristics such as strength, tenacity, and the beginnings of one’s journey in a field. Here’s a quick rundown of various teeth idioms and what they typically represent:

  • By the skin of one’s teeth: This means barely managing to do something, escaping by a narrow margin.
  • Fight tooth and nail: If we fight tooth and nail, we’re putting all of our efforts into fighting for something.
  • Cut your teeth: This idiom indicates where we started gaining experience in a particular area or honed our skills.
  • Long in the tooth: It’s a lighthearted way to say someone is growing older or perhaps too old for a certain activity.
  • Sweet tooth: When we admit to having a sweet tooth, we acknowledge a strong fondness for sweets.

33 Teeth Idioms in English: Common Phrases and Their Meanings

Teeth Idioms with Meaning and Example Sentences

Idioms Meanings with Example Sentences
To sink one’s teeth into To start with enthusiasm or to become fully involved in something.

Example: “She’s eager to sink her teeth into the new project.”

Long in the tooth Old or aging, is often used to describe animals like horses.

Example: “He’s getting a bit long in the tooth to be working such long hours.”

Tooth and nail With all one’s effort; fiercely.

Example: “She fought tooth and nail to keep her business open.”

Cut your teeth on To gain initial experience in a particular field.

Example: “He cut his teeth on local theater productions before hitting Broadway.”

Armed to the teeth Heavily armed with weapons, or equipped with plenty of resources.

Example: “The guards were armed to the teeth.”

Kick in the teeth A severe setback or disappointment.

Example: “Losing the contract was a real kick in the teeth for the company.”

Tooth for a tooth The principle of exact retribution; an eye for an eye.

Example: “He believes in a tooth for a tooth when it comes to justice.”

Show your teeth To become aggressive or show one’s ability to defend oneself.

Example: “When challenged, he’s not afraid to show his teeth.”

Get your teeth into To become deeply engaged with a challenging task.

Example: “She got her teeth into the complex research topic.”

Teething problems Initial difficulties experienced when starting a new project.

Example: “The new software had some teething problems at first.”

Fight tooth and claw To fight fiercely or with all one’s might.

Example: “The two competitors were ready to fight tooth and claw for the title.”

Teeth-chattering Extremely cold or frightening.

Example: “We had to turn back during the hike because of the teeth-chattering cold.”

Fed to the teeth To be annoyed or fed up with something.

Example: “I’m fed to the teeth with these constant delays!”

Set one’s teeth on edge To cause someone to feel intense discomfort or irritation.

Example: “The sound of nails on a chalkboard sets my teeth on edge.”

As rare as hen’s teeth Extremely rare or difficult to find.

Example: “A first edition of that book is as rare as a hen’s teeth.”

To be in the teeth of To be facing a challenging situation directly.

Example: “She’s in the teeth of a major crisis right now.”

To have teeth To have real power or effectiveness.

Example: “The new regulations have teeth, so companies better comply.”

Bare one’s teeth To show anger or aggression.

Example: “When negotiations failed, both sides bared their teeth.”

Teeth like stars Someone with very white teeth.

Example: “When he smiled, his teeth like stars lit up the room.”

Teeth Idioms in Different Contexts

Idioms Reflecting Positive Emotions and Situations

Grinning from ear to ear

  • Meaning: Displaying a very large and genuine smile, indicates extreme happiness or satisfaction.
  • Example: “After winning the championship game, the players were grinning from ear to ear during the celebration.”


  • Meaning: Pleasing to the taste; delicious. While not directly related to teeth, it’s an adjective that implies something is good enough to sink your teeth into.
  • Example: “The buffet was filled with a toothsome selection that had everyone’s mouth-watering.”

By the skin of one’s teeth

  • Meaning: Barely managing to achieve something, escaping or succeeding by a very narrow margin.
  • Example: “He completed the project right on the deadline, by the skin of his teeth.”

Something to sink one’s teeth into

  • Meaning: A substantial task or project that one can engage with enthusiastically.
  • Example: “This new research assignment is something to sink my teeth into.”

As rare as hen’s teeth

  • Meaning: Extremely rare or difficult to find.
  • Example: “Finding a first edition of this book is as rare as a hen’s teeth.

Cut your teeth on something

  • Meaning: To get your first experience at something or to begin to learn something new.
  • Example: “He cut his teeth on local politics before running for a national office.”

Idioms Describing Aggressive or Defensive Behavior

Bare one’s teeth

  • Meaning: To show anger or aggression, similar to how an animal might show its teeth when threatened.
  • Example: “When the negotiations turned sour, he bared his teeth, and we knew the deal was off.”

Fight tooth and nail

  • Meaning: To try very hard to get something you want, often implying aggression or tenacity.
  • Example: “He fought tooth and nail to climb to the top of his profession.”

Get your teeth into something

  • Meaning: To deal with something or engage in something with great energy and enthusiasm, sometimes aggressively.
  • Example: “Once he gets his teeth into a project, there’s no stopping him.”

Sink your teeth into

  • Meaning: To start to deal with something with great energy and enthusiasm, and sometimes aggressively.
  • Example: “She was looking for a challenging role she could sink her teeth into.”

By the skin of your teeth

  • Meaning: Narrowly; barely. Usually refers to a narrow escape from a disaster.
  • Example: “He escaped the clutches of the law by the skin of his teeth.

Idioms About Honesty and Deception

Lying through one’s teeth
  • Meaning: To tell a complete falsehood
  • Example: “He claimed he didn’t eat the cookies, but he was lying through his teeth.”
To give one’s eyeteeth
  • Meaning: To be willing to give something of great value for something else
  • Example: “I’d give my eyeteeth for a chance to meet my favorite author.”

Idioms Symbolizing Strength and Resilience

Cut one’s teeth
  • Meaning: To gain experience in a particular area
  • Example: “She cut her teeth in the marketing department before moving up.”

Related Idiom List: