keep your head up keep your head down


Senior Member
Topic: keep your head up / keep your head down
added by Cagey, moderator

Anybody can tell me the difference between the two idiomatic phrases ? thanks in advance
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  • beppo

    Senior Member
    keep your head down = be careful, keep your eyes peeled, watch it
    To me keep your head up means more or less the same but I'm not sure


    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Keep your head down.
    I go along with your sense of caution, though it's a bit difficult to keep your eyes peeled and your head down at the same time:) It often means "Make yourself inconspicuous," or "Make sure don't do anything to draw attention to yourself."

    For example, the boss comes storming in, clearly in a foul mood. Word goes around, "Keep your head down, he's looking for someone to yell at."

    Keep your head up?
    I think I am confusing this with "Keep your chin up."
    It doesn't have any of the sense of keep your head down, though.
    Keep your self-respect, your dignity, despite ... whatever the difficult circumstances might be that would cause you to hang your head.

    mary de la loma

    Hi. Each carries more than one meaning.

    Keep your head up: be alert to what is happening around you; show pride in yourself.

    Keep your head down: try to go unnoticed; protect your body from physically harmful projectiles.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    People in London are starting to talk about a heads up as a warning to people that they need to make sure they aren't caught napping.


    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I've not heard of "to keep your head up" before - judging from the above perhaps this is a AE BE split. We do talk of "getting a heads up" meaning "getting a warning".

    As for "keep your head down" I agree with Panjandrum. "To get your head down" means "go to sleep" as well.


    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I'm not sure "keep your head up" is idiomatic for any particular meaning. It's easily understood-- that's why you're getting a range of answers that all mean, basically, be alert and pay attention, watch out for danger.

    "Heads up!" is an idiomatic expression in AE, also "keep your eyes out." The first has become a noun, so you can give someone a heads-up, meaning a warning.

    As for showing pride or keeping your dignity, the expression I think that's being mixed in here is "hold your head up."

    To keep something up basically means to take care of it or maintain it-- if it's a lawn (for example) you keep it fertilized, weeded, watered and mowed. "Keep your head up" to me conjures images of hygiene and grooming and taking hallucinogens. Whoa wait a minute, that last one was "feed your head."

    "Keep your head down" is a military truism, and the figurative use of it is widespread and idiomatic. You are correct about the meaning. It's true you're not supposed to jerk your head up during a golf swing, but that's a very specialized application.

    Edit-- yikes! Simulposted with Tim!