grit one’s teeth


grit one’s teeth


  • to act bravely and courageously in a challenging situation.
  • making the decision to carry on even in the face of adversity.
  • to press or rub the teeth together, often as a reaction to stress, anger, pain, or determination.

The idiom “grit one’s teeth” encompasses a range of meanings. Starting from the literal clenching of teeth to endure pain or hardship, it has evolved into a metaphor symbolizing the summoning of inner strength.

Example Sentences

  1. Tom gritted his teeth, overcame his fear of heights, and climbed the ladder.
  2. Lisa gritted her teeth and continued with her demanding work despite the difficult circumstances.
  3. Facing a challenging workout can be exhausting, but you just have to grit your teeth and push through it.


The idiom “grit one’s teeth” draws its origins from the wisdom of ancient times, particularly from the Greeks and Romans. It’s rooted in the concept of setting one’s teeth, a visual representation of facing challenges with determination.

Originally, “gritting one’s teeth” was more than words; it was a physical action. Imagine someone clamping their teeth together to bear pain or meet a tough task. This action not only showcased resilience but also formed the basis of the metaphor we use today.

Throughout history, the phrase “grit one’s teeth” has evolved in meaning. In 1797, Thomas Jefferson mentioned his colleague John Adams “gritting his teeth” during a passionate exchange. This highlights the expression’s adaptability in capturing emotional fortitude, even in disagreements.

While the precise first appearance isn’t documented, the phrase can be traced back to ancient Greek playwright Menander, around 300 B.C. His work, “The Girl from Samos”, contained the phrase “Set your teeth and endure.” However, it’s more a product of collective linguistic evolution than a single coining moment.

In the present day, the phrase “grit your teeth” continues to hold significant power. It captures the concept of facing challenges directly, tapping into inner resilience, and persisting through difficult moments. Its trajectory from ancient Greece to the contemporary world highlights its enduring importance within the language.

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