not going to die on that hill


Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
An American comedian was asked about her views on marijuana legalization during an interview. She said she supported it, but she wasn't going to die on that hill. It wasn't high enough on her list that she should be putting herself out to support its recreational use.

Are you familiar with "not going to die on that hill"? I found nothing helpful on Google except this thread on Yahoo!Answers. Going by that explanation, I take it to mean she wouldn't go to mat for the legalization because she wasn't willing to put herself in a difficult position for something that wasn't her priority.
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    I've never heard that particular expression before, redgiant. In context, its figurative meaning would be fairly easy for a fluent English-speaker to figure out.


    Senior Member
    "Is that a hill worth dying on?"
    Yes, I occasionally read or hear variations of this phrase. A key part of the meaning is the cost-benefit analysis. How high is the issue on your list of priorities, versus how high would be the cost of fighting that fight?
    (In military terms, fighting up a hill, with the enemy above you, can cost much time and many lives. A military commander must judge whether taking that hill is worth the high cost.)
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    US, English
    That's a great explanation, cubaMania. As both a retired soldier and a former corporate manager, I've heard and used that phrase for years, and you've described it exactly. You may also hear I'll die on that hill, meaning 'that's a battle I'm willing to fight (because that issue is that important to me)'.


    Senior Member
    Although the view expressed here is popularly held, I think the people doing the dying in this context are those defending the hill, not attacking it. Forces are said to choose a hill to die on. They're being pushed back and decide for whatever reason that further retreat is not an acceptable option. So they "plant their flag" and take whatever may come.

    This expression isn't all that uncommon. The example that comes to mind is a comment made last December by a National Hockey League executive regarding "term limits on player contracts, which is the hill we will die on." Within a few days, the league reconsidered and dropped (stopped defending) their demand. Locking out the players and abusing the fans were deemed acceptable; losing the substantial revenues derived from the playoffs was not. Not exactly inspired, or inspiring, leadership.


    Senior Member
    I've been thinking about this, and I want to amend my view. I still think defenders and not attackers are the proper focus for this, but I don't think retreat is at all necessarily involved.

    One example that comes to mind is the action by Union troops to occupy and defend Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. There was, of course, no retreat involved there. But I'd say it was Chamberlain's command, and not the Confederate regiments assaulting up the hill that were, in the sense intended here, deciding that they would "die on this hill." They were told and believed that the integrity of the entire Union position depended on holding it.

    As an aside, I found Joseph Haschka's review of Thomas Desjardin's Stand Firm Ye Boys from Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign posted on interesting in this context. Believing that the surrender of your position will be potentially disastrous can be enough, I suppose, whether it's actually true or not.