Head Over Heels – Meaning, Origin


1. To be in love with something or someone.

2. This phrase can also refer to a bad fall. (e.g., He fell head over heels down the the stairs.)

Example: I work as a cashier and a few times every week I see the same girl come into the store. She always chooses my lane when she’s ready to buy, and she strikes up a conversation with me every time! I’m beginning to fall head over heels for her. I wonder if she likes me.

Synonyms / Related Sayings:
Love birds
Love at first sight
The head over heels idiom, heart and love spelled out in blocks.

The Origin Of ‘Head Over Heels’

This phrase has an inverted and, by the looks of it, older form that goes “heels over head.” This referred to someone who was falling. For example, in the London Annual Register newspaper, printed on January, 1766, there’s a part that reads:

“Being thrown with great vehemence from a projecting crag, which turned him heels over head, he fell down perpendicular upwards of fifty yards into a snow drift at the boot of a cliff, where he lay above half an hour before his companions could get to him to take him up.”

According to WorldWideWords, by the end of the 18th century, this idiom changed from the inverted version to “head over heels,” which refers to someone who has fallen, not to the ground, but in love. An example of this comes from a book titled A Narrative of the Life of David Corckett, published in 1834:

“I soon found myself head over heels in love with this girl.”

Example Sentences

  1. There’s a new woman where I work and I think I’m falling head over heels for her, because she has a great personality and is also quite pretty.

Note: The definitions for phrases and sayings can be found with ease, but finding the origins of phrases proves far more challenging. Looking back through history, it’s tough to find the place or person in which a phrase has its roots. We are limited to what can be found in writings, such as books, poems, newspapers, and plays. Often times, phrases will be quoted from century old newspapers, or from plays that were done in the 17th century by playwrights like William Shakespeare.

The phrases that are quoted are likely already commonly known, and have their origins elsewhere. For instance, just because an idiom shows up in a newspaper from 1850, does not mean the idiom originated from that newspaper. However, what that does tell you, is that the phrase was being used since 1850, so its origins are at least more than 150 years old.

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