Alternative Meanings for Names of the Head and Its Parts

By Mark Nichol

The head and its components, so prominent in our awareness, inspire us to use their names for other meanings. Here are ten words, including head, with their additional connotations.

1. Brain: intellect or the mind, someone considered very intelligent, or something considered the inanimate equivalent of an organic brain; as a verb, to strike someone on the head

2. Brow: a projecting browlike feature, especially at a height, or one’s demeanor or expression

3. Cheek: something similar in form to a human cheek, especially as one of a pair (including, informally, a buttock), or insolence or self-assurance

4. Face: a side or surface, or outward appearance or a facial expression, or confidence or insolence; also used in idioms such as “save face,” meaning “to preserve one’s dignity”; as a verb, to stand in the direction of something, or to confront or deal with something

5. Head: the mind, a person in the sense of that person’s mental abilities (“Wiser heads prevailed”), or natural ability or talent, or one of a number of things, including people, a director or leader, a place of authority or honor, an enthusiast or a drug addict or user, a crisis point, a higher or upper end of an object or one opposite its foot, the source of a stream, creek, or river (also called the headwaters), or a reservoir of water or the structure containing or restraining it, or a moving body of water, the end of a plant, especially with compact fruit or leaves, or the front of a line of moving things; as a verb, to lead or to go toward

6. Jaw: a friendly conversation, or something resembling a jaw, as the side of a narrow passage or an implement for crushing or holding, or, figuratively, in plural form, a threatening situation (“the jaws of death”); as a verb, to converse in a friendly fashion

7: Lip: something resembling a lip, as an edge or a rim of an object, the use of lips and other mouth parts in playing a musical instrument or the instrument’s mouthpiece, or impudent talk

8. Mouth: a mouthlike entrance or opening, a grimace or other unpleasant expression, speech or voice, impudence or verbosity; as a verb, to pronounce or speak, or to move the mouth as if speaking without making sounds

9. Skull: the mind or brain

10. Tooth: an object resembling a tooth in form or function, or a projecting part of a tool used for cutting or for pushing another part, liking or taste, effective enforcement, or something destructive.

Alternative meanings for the names of the facial sense organs, as well as skin, are treated in this post.

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4 Responses to “Alternative Meanings for Names of the Head and Its Parts”

  • Don

    Ha. This is awesome. I’m currently editing a manuscript for some young writers and they keep on saying “dome,” as a reference to the head. Wish they read this before overusing it.

  • Dan Lafrenière

    Thanks for today’s column. ‘Head’ is also used to donate a toilet or washroom, especially in maritime parlance (or naval/military jargon).

  • Jen

    I think “jaw” has been used as a verb in the olden days to mean “talk.” For example: we were just sitting around jawing. Hmm, maybe not. I remember my grandpa using it when I was little.

  • Sally

    Yes, Jen, ‘jaw’ has been used as a verb. It seems to be US in origin (Churchill’s “Better jaw, jaw than war, war” might have been inspired by his American mother).

    Here in Australia one once talked of ther elderly ‘gumming’ their food – because they often lacked teeth to chew.

    Common here, and playing on “the jaws of death” metaphor, is “the jaws of life,” a giant set of shears sometimes used to cut the injured from wrecked vehicles.

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