Head over heels

When you’re head over heels about something or someone it means that you’re very excited, and/or turning cartwheels to demonstrate your excitement. This idiom is often used in the phrase ‘head over heels in love with’. It was probably first used in the 14th century, when it was ‘heels over head’, which makes more sense. At some point the components got reversed.

Other idioms used to indicate that things are not as usual include ‘upside-down’, ‘topsy-turvy’, ‘arse over tea-kettle’, ‘higgledy-piggledy’, and ‘arse over tit’.

The Spanish equivalent of this idiom is patas arriba (paws on top) – this is one I learnt today, and in Chinese it’s 亂七八糟 (luànqībāzāo = confusion seven eight rotten). What about in other languages?

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This entry was posted in English, Idioms, Language, Words and phrases.

12 Responses to Head over heels

  1. ISPKN says:

    الرئيس علي الشفاء is the direct translation in arabic which happens to be another idiom meaning simply “upside down”

    شكل رأسا عالج is the closest thing I found to actually meaning “head over heals” but the direct translation is “formed a head treated” I’m not sure if it’s right however.

  2. jrf says:

    head over heels (in love) could be translated to Dutch as ‘hoteldebotel’ ;-)

  3. Weili says:

    I don’t believe the meaning of 亂七八糟 is the same as “head over heels”.

    亂七八遭 generally has a negative intonation and it can be translated loosely as “what a mess!”.

  4. BG says:

    In German its “Hals über Kopf”, the literal translation is “neck over head”

  5. Then again, Weili, “What a mess!” would be very suitable to SOME “head over heels” kinds of relationships… ;)

  6. Weili says:

    Haha, good point, Minstrel Ayreon ;)

  7. Polly says:

    Armenian: “Dag muh vrah” (տակ մը վրայ) = Under over. Usually means disorder or chaos. It took me many hearings of this before I bothered to try and comprehend it. I sometimes let phrases I don’t understand just float over my head.

    I’m sure anyone who’s studied Russian at all has heard: “беспорядок” meaning “disorder” or “without-order” I’d be curious to hear any others.

  8. Ben L. says:

    I’ll offer one for (American) English: “F!@#ed up like a football bat.”, or good ol’ “FUBAR”.

  9. jrf says:

    Funny to see the German translation – the literal translation in Dutch for that would be ‘hals over kop’, but the meaning is a bit different – it equates more to ‘at the spur of the moment’ or ‘in a terrific rush’.
    Although you could of course fall ‘hals over kop’ in love, a more common use in Dutch would be ‘hij moest hals over kop naar het ziekenhuis’ – which translates as ‘he suddenly had to be rushed to the hospital’.

  10. Giovanni says:

    One way to express this in Italian is “su di giri”, meaning indeed that you’re positively excited about something or someone.

    “Giro” means round and, technically, also spin or revolution (of a vinyl record, wheel, etc.). The adverb “su” means up, so if I say that I am “su di giri” it literally means that my head is working at more… revolutions per minute than the normal!

  11. Geoff says:

    French offers “sens dessus dessous” – literally upside-down – for topsy-turvy, or all messed up, though it’s more disorderly than simply odd. There’s also “à l’envers” – from the wrong side – like looking at the back side of an etching, a n embroidery or a painting on glass – which is a bit darker, as it reveals what you aren’t supposed to see that makes things seem clear and ordered when they aren’t. As for falling in love, the French do so – “tomber amoureux” – but it’s usually madly or crazily or somesuch. At the moment, I can’t come up with anything that literalizes the falling metaphor by physicalizing it.

  12. Benjamin says:

    jrf, actually “Hals über Kopf” also rather means “hastily” with that connotation of “too fast”: So it’s the same as in Dutch. Anyway, since it also means “too fast” it’s the closest translation for “head over heels” I can think of at the moment. Except if you don’t just look for phrases but also for single words. Then there would be “durcheinander”, “verdreht”… could/would be quite a list, if you’d search long enough.