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head, n.1

Brit. /hɛd/
U.S. /hɛd/
Forms:  eOE heasdes (Mercian, genitive singular, transmission error), OE eafd- (inflected form, rare), OE hæafd- (inflected form, rare), OE hæfad- (inflected form, rare), OE hafod (rare), OE hafud- (in compounds, rare), OE heafu (Northumbrian, transmission error), OE heafut (Northumbrian, rare), OE heafvd (rare), OE hefid- (Northumbrian, in compounds), OE heofd- (inflected form, rare), OE heofed (rare), OE heofud (Anglian), OE heouod (rare), OE hiafd- (inflected form, rare), OE (rare)–eME eafod, OE (rare)–eME hæfd- (inflected form), OE (rare)–eME hæfod, OE (rare)–eME heafad, OE–eME heafd- (inflected form), OE–eME heafed, OE–eME heafod, OE (rare)–eME heafoð, OE (chiefly Anglian)–eME heafud, OE (rare)–eME heauod, OE (rare)–eME hefd- (inflected form), OE–eME heofod, lOE hæafud- (in compounds), lOE hæuod, lOE hauud, lOE heæfd- (inflected form), lOE heæfed, lOE heæfod, lOE heafð- (inflected form), lOE (eME in copy of OE charter) æfd- (inflected form), lOE (eME in copy of OE charter) hefod, lOE–eME hæued, lOE–eME heafd, lOE–eME heuod, lOE–ME heaued, lOE–ME hefd, eME eaued, eME eueth (in a Latin text), eME eved, eME hæfd, eME hæfed, eME hæfedd ( Ormulum), eME hæfet, eME hæffod (in copy of OE charter), eME hæfued, eME hæhued, eME hæuet, eME hafd- (inflected form), eME hafed, eME hafedd ( Ormulum), eME hafot, eME hafued, eME haphed (in a place name), eME hauod, eME heafet, eME heafeð, eME heafoded (probably transmission error), eME heaheafde (plural, transmission error), eME heauet, eME heaueð, eME heauot (in a Latin text), eME heawed, eME hefad (in copy of OE charter), eME hefet, eME hefued, eME heofd (in copy of OE charter), eME heueed, eME heuet, eME heueð, eME hevod (in copy of OE charter), eME hewid, eME hewit, eME hued, ME efd, ME eued, ME hade, ME haued, ME haved, ME havede, ME heafodde (in copy of OE charter), ME heauede, ME heauyd (in copy of OE charter), ME heedd, ME hef, ME hefde, ME hefed, ME hefede, ME heifd (northern), ME heried (transmission error), ME het, ME heud, ME heue, ME heued, ME heuede, ME heuid, ME heuyd, ME heved, ME hevede, ME hevid, ME hevyd, ME hewed, ME hewede, ME hewyd, ME heyd (chiefly north-east midlands and northern), ME heyde (chiefly north-east midlands and northern), ME hide, ME hied (northern), ME hiede (northern), ME hiued, ME hude (northern, perhaps transmission error), ME hyfdes (plural), ME (17 North American) had, ME–15 hedd, ME–15 hedde, ME–15 heed, ME–15 heede, ME (chiefly northern)–15 (19– Irish English (northern)) heid, ME–16 hede, ME–16 (18 Irish English (Wexford)) heade, ME–17 hed, ME– head, lME heuesde (transmission error), 15 ede, 15 ȝaed, 15 headde, 15 heydd, 16 headd, 18 'ed (nonstandard), 18 ed (nonstandard), 18 haade (Irish English (Wexford)), 18 ned (nonstandard), 18– 'ead (nonstandard), 18– ead (nonstandard); English regional 17– had, 17– yead, 18 haid, 18 hede (northern), 18 heoad (Lancashire), 18 heyde, 18 hidd (East Anglian), 18– ad (chiefly midlands), 18– 'eead, 18– hade, 18– hed, 18– heead, 18– heeade, 18– heed, 18– heid (northern), 18– hid (East Anglian), 18– hod (Worcestershire), 18– hud, 18– yed, 18– yedd, 18– yeead, 18– yud, 19– yod (Worcestershire); U.S. regional (southern, chiefly in African-American usage) 18 hade, 18– haid, 19– hai'd; Scottish pre-17 ed, pre-17 hade, pre-17 haed, pre-17 heade, pre-17 hed, pre-17 hede, pre-17 heidd, pre-17 heide, pre-17 heuit, pre-17 heved, pre-17 hevid, pre-17 hevyd, pre-17 hevyde, pre-17 hewid, pre-17 hewide, pre-17 hewit, pre-17 hewyd, pre-17 hewyde, pre-17 heyd, pre-17 17– head, pre-17 17– heed, pre-17 17– heid /hid/, pre-17 18 haid, 17 hide, 18 hehd (north-eastern). (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: A word inherited from Germanic.
Etymology: Cognate with Old Frisian hāved  , hād  , Old Saxon hōvid   (Middle Low German hȫvet  ), Middle Dutch hōvet  , hooft   (Dutch hoofd  ), Old High German houbit   (Middle High German houbet  , German Haupt  ), Old Icelandic haufuð  , Gothic haubiþ  , apparently reflecting a variant or alteration (see note) of the Germanic base of Old Icelandic hǫfuð  , Norn (Shetland) huge  , Old Swedish hovudh  , hovuþ   (Swedish huvud  ), Old Danish hovæth   (Danish hoved  ), Old Gutnish hafuþ   < the same Indo-European base as classical Latin capit-  , caput   (see caput n.), probably < a base meaning ‘cup, vessel’; further etymology uncertain, perhaps < the Indo-European base of classical Latin capere   to take, lift (see capture n.   and compare heave v.); compare (with different suffix) Sanskrit kapāla   cup, skull.
With the semantic development from ‘cup, vessel’ to ‘head’ compare French tête   (see tête n.) and German Kopf   (see cop n.2   and the discussion at that entry), both now only in sense ‘head’; compare cop n.1  
The diphthongized base seen in the West Germanic and some other forms probably shows secondary influence from another word; suggestions for this include the Germanic base of houve n.   and the Germanic base of eye n.1
Old English inflection.
In Old English usually a strong neuter; a strong masculine accusative plural hēafdas   is attested once.
The word sometimes appears to show dative plural hēafdum   in singular sense, especially in locative function, as in the phrase æt hēafdum  . Similar constructions are occasionally found in Old High German and Old Icelandic. The origin of such forms is uncertain and disputed. It has been suggested that they reflect an old instrumental singular form or a former dual, but they may also have arisen secondarily in contexts such as quot. OE at sense 18a   and be influenced by the dative plural ending of fōtum   feet, with which the word is often paired or contrasted. The form hēafdum   in quot. lOE2 at sense 37a   may also represent such a locative form, but the later use of the plural in sense 37a   is probably unconnected.
Old English forms.
In Old English the word usually shows the long diphthong ēa   in the first syllable, the regular reflex of Germanic au  ; occasional forms such as heofud   occur especially in Anglian sources in which the graphic distinction between the diphthongs ēa   and ēo   is not always clearly maintained. Forms such as hæfod, hafod, showing a monophthong in the first syllable, are occasionally attested, and have sometimes been interpreted as showing the reflex of Germanic a  , but they are rare and relatively late. Late Old English forms such as hæfod   in particular clearly reflect monophthongization of the earlier diphthong rather than an inherited monophthong.
The vowel of the second syllable (originally u  , in West Saxon usually o  ) is liable to syncope in inflected forms, but also to analogical restoration; the precise phonological history is complex and disputed, and subject to much dialectal and diachronic variation (see further R. M. Hogg & R. D. Fulk Gram. Old Eng. (2011) II. §§3.56–7, 3.63–6, 3.72). In late Old English shortening in the first syllable is liable to occur both in trisyllabic inflected forms such as genitive singular hēafodes  , nominative plural hēafodu  , and also in disyllabic forms before the consonant group, such as hēafdes  , hēafdu  .
Later form history.
The Middle English forms show reflexes of both long and shortened vowels, the latter further reinforced by shortening of long open ē   (or its reflex) before d   (after loss of the intervening fricative) in late Middle English or early modern English (compare e.g. bread n., dead adj., red adj., etc.). Older Scots did not share the tendency to shorten open ē   in this environment, and the usual modern form heid   reflects a long vowel (subsequently shortened by the operation of Aitken's Law).
The form ned at Forms   shows metanalysis (see N n.).
Notes on specific senses.
Compare post-classical Latin caput   (see caput n.) and also Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French chief  , chef   (see chief n.), which have a similar semantic range.
With sense 6   compare Anglo-Norman teste   head of a stag, antlers (both first half of the 14th cent.). Earlier currency of this sense is perhaps shown by the following Old English gloss of post-classical Latin brunda  , an obscure word, probably of Messapian origin, meaning ‘head (or perhaps antlers) of a deer’. The ultimate source of the gloss is Isidore ( Origines 15. 1. 49), who cites brunda   (which he considers a Greek word) as etymon of the classical Latin name of Brundisium   (now Brindisi): ‘Brundisium autem dictum [est] Graece quod brunda caput cervi dicatur,’ ‘Brundisium is so called in Greek because brunda is the head of a deer.’ The word is glossed elsewhere both as ‘head of a deer’ and ‘antlers of a deer’ (with the latter compare the Middle English quots. below); it is impossible to know which sense was uppermost in the mind of the Anglo-Saxon glossator:
OE   Antwerp-London Gloss. (2011) 48   Brunda, heortes heafod.
?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 61   A harthorne, brunda, cornu cerui.
?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 65   A Horne, brunda..cornu.
With sense 17   compare Old English hēafodlic  headly adj.   in its rare sense ‘situated at the top’, attested only with reference to the architrave or capital of a column (compare sense 19g). With use in reference to columns perhaps compare also the following attestation of the Old English compound hēafodstōl   (compare head-stool n. at Compounds 4), ostensibly glossing post-classical Latin capitella  , plural of capitellum   capital of a column (see capitellum n.), although the gloss is perhaps more likely to reflect confusion of post-classical Latin capitellum   with classical Latin capitōlium  Capitol n.:
eOE   Cleopatra Gloss. in W. G. Stryker Lat.-Old Eng. Gloss. in MS Cotton Cleopatra A.III (Ph.D. diss., Stanford Univ.) (1951) 97   Capitella, heafedstol.
With sense 31a   compare Old English (Northumbrian) hēafodweard   chapter, heading (see headward n.2).
With senses 39a   and 40   (and the related place names discussed below) compare pen n.1   and its Brittonic etymon.
With sense 53   compare Anglo-Norman a bon chef   to a successful conclusion, a mal chef   to an unfavourable conclusion, to a bad end (both late 12th cent.), etc., and the expressions cited at to bring to a head at Phrases 4b   and to come to a head at Phrases 4c.
Use in place names.
The word is attested in place names in a number of senses, including ‘upper end of a valley’ (compare sense 36), ‘source of a stream’ (compare sense 37), and ‘headland of a field’ (compare sense 38). However, a significant number of early place names appear to show the word as second element in sense ‘projecting piece of ground’ (compare branch II.**); this use differs both from later sense 39a   (‘promontory, cape’) in that it is not typically found in coastal areas, and from later sense 40   (‘summit’) in that it does not seem to refer to the highest part of a hill, but chiefly to hill-spurs and the like; compare e.g. Dunehefde  , Somerset (1086, now Downhead), Duneheve  , Wiltshire (1086; also to Dunheafdan   in a 13th-cent. copy of a charter of 955; now Donhead), names probably to be interpreted as meaning ‘projecting end of a hill’ (compare down n.1 1). This sense of the word is not well attested in lexical use, although compare early Middle English westhēafod   (c1155) in sense ‘western end of a hill’ in late copies of Anglo-Saxon charters; perhaps compare also the Old English phrase hlinces hēafod   (and similar collocations, e.g. hlinces ende  ) in charter bounds, probably in sense ‘end of a ridge or terrace’ (compare link n.1, linch n.2).
An unusually high proportion of place names of this type have the name of an animal as the first element; comparison of the shape of the hill-spur with the shape of the animal's head is probably sometimes implied, although other kinds of association between animal and hill are also possible. (An earlier theory connecting such names with early Anglo-Saxon practices of animal sacrifice is now usually discounted.) See discussion in M. Gelling & A. Cole Landscape of Place-names (2000) 175–6. Compare e.g. Gateshevet, Durham (1144–53, although earlier currency is implied by Bede's Latin translation as Ad Caprae Caput (731); now Gateshead), and compare also the following:
OE   Farm Accounts, Ely in A. J. Robertson Anglo-Saxon Charters (1956) 252   Twegen or[an wæ]ron to scipe & to net[tum] to Fearresheafde [i.e. present-day Farcet].
OE   Bounds (Sawyer 1329) in D. Hooke Worcs. Anglo-Saxon Charter-bounds (1990) 290   Of cynelde weorðe swa on þære lytlan mædwe, swa on swines heafde [i.e. present-day Swinesherd].
 I. Senses relating to the part of the body.
 * The literal sense, and directly connected uses.
 a. The uppermost part of the body of a human, or the front or uppermost part of the body of an animal, typically separated from the rest of the body by a more or less distinct neck, and containing the brain, mouth, eyes, nose, and ears.

 (a) With reference to humans.

OE (Northumbrian)   Lindisf. Gospels: John xiii. 9   Non tantum pedes meos sed et manus et caput : ne þæt an foet mino ah eæc ða hond & þæt heafut [OE Rushw. heofod, OE West Saxon Gospels: Corpus Cambr. heafod].
OE   Cynewulf Juliana 295   Ic Herode in hyge bispeop [read bisweop] þæt he Iohannes bibead heafde biheawan.
a1225  (?OE)    MS Trin. Cambr. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1873) 2nd Ser. 205 (MED)   He..hadde þornene helm uppen his holi hafde.
c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1963) l. 800   He gurde Suard on þat hæfd.
c1300  (?c1225)    King Horn (Cambr.) (1901) l. 641 (MED)   Þat heued i þe bringe Of þe maister kinge.
c1325  (c1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig.) 398   Corineus..smot him anowarde þat heued [c1425 Harl. hed].
c1384   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(2)) (1850) Matt. v. 36   Neither thou shalt swere by thin heued.
1450   W. Lomnor in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) II. 36   Oon of the lewdeste of the shippe badde hym ley down hys hedde.
a1475  (?a1430)    Lydgate tr. G. Deguileville Pilgrimage Life Man (Vitell.) 12755   Hyr Eyen royllynge in hyr hed, Hyr fface colouryd was lyk led.
1535   Bible (Coverdale) Mark vi. 24   Ihon baptistes heade.
1546   J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue ii. vii. sig. Kv   God sende that hed (saied she) a better nurs. For whan the hed aketh, all the body is the wurs.
a1616   Shakespeare Tempest (1623) iii. ii. 35   Keepe a good tongue in your head .  
1655   T. Fuller Church-hist. Brit. ii. 109   They pour not water upon the Heads of Infants, but immerge them in the Font.
1726   Swift Gulliver I. ii. viii. 163   I had like to have gotten one or two broken Heads for my Impertinence.
1752   London Mag. Dec. 556/2   They beat their heads and tore their hair.
1824   C. M. Sedgwick Redwood II. xx. 135   [She] averted her head to conceal her blushes and her tears.
1859   ‘G. Eliot’ Adam Bede II. iv. xxvii. 233   He'd leave his head behind him, if it was loose.
1900   Internat. Monthly 1 239   People of short stature, with rounded heads and dark hair.
a1935   W. Holtby South Riding (1936) viii. iii. 536   His pulses were leaping, his head ached, his whole body trembled in an ague.
1971   Daily Tel. 4 Mar. 15/4   A cashier who tried to ‘have a go’ was hit on the head with a gun butt.
2010   New Yorker 20 Sept. 102/2   The driver was wearing a helmet, while his passenger merely held hers over her head.

OE—2010(Hide quotations)


 (b) With reference to animals.

eOE   King Ælfred tr. Boethius De Consol. Philos. (Otho) (2009) I. xxiii. 490   Ða sceolde cuman ðære helle hund ongean hine, þæs nama wæs Cerueruerus [read Ceruerus], se sceolde habban þrio heafdu.
OE   Ælfric Old Eng. Hexateuch: Gen. (Claud.) iii. 15   God cwæð to ðære næddran:..heo tobrytt ðin heafod [L. caput tuum] & ðu syrwst ongean hire ho.
lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Laud) anno 1012   Hine þa þær oftorfodon mid banum & mid hryðera heafdum[OE Tiber. B. iv hryþera neata heafedum].
a1325  (c1250)    Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 3151   Ilc man..Heued and fet [of roasted lamb]..Lesen fro ðe bones, and eten.
a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) i. l. 1536   He his horse heved aside Tho torneth.
a1450   in T. Austin Two 15th-cent. Cookery-bks. (1888) 9   Take fayre garbagys of chykonys, as þe hed, þe fete, þe lyuerys.
1587   J. Hooker Chron. Ireland 157/1 in Holinshed's Chron. (new ed.) II   The great & venomous hydra was thus shortened of one of his heds.
1607   E. Topsell Hist. Foure-footed Beastes 219   It is said..that if the head of a wolfe be hanged vp in a doue-cote, neither cat, Ferret, weasil, Stoate, or other noysome beast dare to enter therein.
1676   London Gaz. No. 1143/4   A little motled Bitch, with yellow motles from head to toe.
1737   J. Brickell Nat. Hist. N.-Carolina 168   The Tobacco-worm..has two sharp horns on its Head.
1769   T. Pennant Brit. Zool. (new ed.) III. iv. 249   This species is in some places called the bull trout, from the thickness and shortness of its head.
1810   A. von Sack Voy. Surinam App. 263   The bird is of a yellow colour; the head is ornamented with a comb of feathers.
1888   G. Rolleston & W. H. Jackson Forms Animal Life (ed. 2) 333   Coelomata... A shorter anterior region or head which is preoral, and a longer postoral region, the body.
1934   J. A. Thomson & E. J. Holmyard Biol. for Everyman I. ii. 26   The head begins to come into its own for the first time in some of the bristle-footed marine worms.
1966   W. Percy Last Gentleman v. iv. 267   The dogs stuck their heads out the windows, grinning and splitting the wind.
1998   S. Lawrence Montenegro 108   He noted the thickness of the serpent, and the evil triangle of its head: a viper, no doubt.
2000   P. Moore Full Montezuma (2001) vii. 100   Our dog Sally would bail them [sc. snakes] up and I'd cut off their heads with a shovel.

eOE—2000(Hide quotations)

OE   Blickling Homilies 33   Cuþ is þæt se awyrgda gast is heafod ealra unrihtwisra dæda, swylce unrihtwise syndon deofles leomo.
OE   Ælfric Homily (Cambr. Ii.4.6) in J. C. Pope Homilies of Ælfric (1967) I. 488   Se Hælend..astah þa ana, ac him æfter fyligdon his agene lima [i.e. the saints], up to ðam Heafde [i.e. Christ].
1563   N. Winȝet Certain Tractates (1890) II. 29   The auctoritie of the apostolik pouer put out the heid sua, that with maist hie seueritie it decretit.
1597   J. Norden Mirror of Honor 15   Let the two edged sword of faith and obedience cut off the head of sin in the head, that it may dye in the members.
1616   P. Simson Short Compend Hist. First Ten Persecutions III. viii. 152   This opinion of Transsubstantiation did no sooner put out its head, but assoone also contradiction was made vnto it.
1682   T. Otway Epil. Venice Preserv'd (single sheet)    From the filthy Dunghil-faction bred, New-form'd Rebellion durst rear up its head.
a1752   T. Fitzgerald Winter's Evening in Poems (1781) 79   From the Year are all its Honours fled, And dull November rears his gloomy Head.
1865   P. H. Gosse Land & Sea 5   An envious sea curled up its green head right over the quarter.
1883   London Bicycle Club Gaz. 12 July 156/2   Rayleigh Hill, which has long defied the attempts of all Essex men, has at length been compelled to lower its head beneath the triumphant wheel of our Captain.
1905   J. B. Bury Life St. Patrick iii. 51   Their [sc. the heretics'] doctrine was compelled to hide its head in Britain for a few years to come.
1952   C. Day Lewis tr. Virgil Aeneid iv. 77   Rumour..soon puffs itself up, And walking upon the ground, buries its head in the cloud-base.
2005   D. Plotz Genius Factory ix. 167   As AID [= artificial insemination by donor] became more common..it started to poke its head out into the open.

OE—2005(Hide quotations)

 b. The size or extent of a head used as a rough unit of measurement.

 (a) In expressions indicating relative height, esp. as compared to the height of a particular person or of people in general, as taller by a (also the) head , etc.Cf. also head and shoulders at Phrases 3o(a)(ii)   and to make shorter by a head at Phrases 6a.

c1400  (?c1390)    Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 333   Þe stif mon hym bifore stod vpon hyȝt, Herre þen ani in þe hous by þe hede & more.
1535   Bible (Coverdale) 1 Kings x. E   Whan he stode amonge the people, he was hygher by the heade then all the people.
1598   Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost v. i. 41   Thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus.  
?1624   T. Scott Vox Dei 5   A tall proper man, higher by the head then the common sort.
1663   A. Gray Great & Precious Promises vi. 139   That idol of self indulgence..is as Saul, the head higher then the rest of all your idols within you.
1704   Clarendon's Hist. Rebellion III. xiii. 315   Near the head higher than most tall Men.
1751   Proc. Old Bailey 16 Oct. 314/1   The man..was a country looking, short punched person, about my height... Note, About the whole head shorter than Dixon.
1788   H. Repton Variety 36   My father was but five feet high, and he was taller by a head than me.
1847   Tennyson Princess iii. 55   She stood Among her maidens, higher by the head.
1875   B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) I. 480   A is taller by a head than B.
1913   A. Blackwood Prisoner in Fairyland ix. 117   She towered above him by a head at least.
1991   J. Wolf Daughter of Red Deer i. iii. 32   The fact that he was a full head taller than she only exacerbated her temper.
2009   B. Mitchell tr. G. Grass Tin Drum iii. 432   I was nearly two heads shorter than Sister Gertrud.

c1400—2009(Hide quotations)


 (b) orig. Horse Racing. With reference to the amount by which one horse is ahead of or behind a rival in a race, or the margin by which it wins or loses. Later frequently figurative with reference to any narrow margin of victory. Chiefly in to win (also lose, etc.) by a head . Cf. neck n.1 4, nose n. 1d.See also short head n. (b) at short adj., n., and adv. Special uses 6a.

1743   London Evening-Post 26 May   The first Heat was won with great Difficulty by Mr. Greswood's Horse Badger, he not beating the Duke of Ancaster's Chesnut above half a Head.
1750   Penny London Post 20 June   The second Heat was so nearly run, that Fancy won it by half the Head.
1794   Edinb. Mag. July 79/1   The second heat was gained by a head, the third by rather less, and the last by half a length.
1805   Sporting Mag. Aug. 270/2   He [sc. a racehorse]..won his race by a head.
1816   W. T. Moncrieff All at Coventry ii. 47   ‘Who's going to start now?’—‘Blucher and Boney.’..‘Boney has lost by half a head.’
1839   Amer. Turf Reg. Mar. 208   He ran four miles carrying 130 lbs. losing by a head only.
1873   K. King Lost for Gold II. vii. 181   ‘I am told Morton was fearful spoons on the same girl. Is it true?’ ‘True enough. I won by a head only.’
1913   Field 3 May 849/3   Louvois..passed Sanquhar and Fairy King, and going great guns..beat the favourite by a head.
1995   Racing Post 14 July 9/1   He..held on to win by a head.
2008   P. Robinson To Death 292   The colt had not won the Irish Derby, but had been beaten by a head in a photo finish.

1743—2008(Hide quotations)


 c. Chiefly British colloquial. A headache. Cf. heady adj. 6b.

1783   H. Mann Let. 18 Nov. in H. Walpole Corr. (1971) XXV. 441   It is become warm again, my habitual heads have ceased.
1869   Trollope Phineas Finn I. xxiii. 189   Don't you know how one feels sometimes that one has got a head? And when that is the case one's armchair is the best place.
1888   R. Kipling Thrown Away in Plain Tales from Hills 15   He found whist, and gymkhanas,..good; but he took these..just as seriously as he took the ‘head’ that followed after drink.
1889   St. James's Gaz. 10 Aug. 3/2   He is decidedly feverish, and, in the pleasing vernacular of the modern youth about town, he has a ‘head’ on him.
1928   R. Macaulay Keeping up Appearances xxv. 291   ‘God, I've got a head.’ ‘You look rotten..better go straight to bed.’
1961   J. Wade Back to Life xi. 164   I get one of those blinding heads.
2007   C. J. Pendergest Videls xvi. 97   Delany woke up with a bit of a head. He hadn't drunk Bacardi for a long time.

1783—2007(Hide quotations)


 a. The head considered as the centre of mental activity; the seat of the faculties; a person's mind. Often contrasted with heart as the seat of the emotions (see heart n. 9); also sometimes contrasted with hands, representing manual labour.See also to get into one's head at Phrases 4d(b), to put into a person's head at Phrases 4n(a).to let one's heart rule one's head: see heart n., int., and adv. Phrases 6d.With quot. ?c1450   cf. to have an evil head at evil adj. 7a.

eOE   King Ælfred tr. Gregory Pastoral Care (Hatton) (1871) xviii. 131   Ðæt heafod [L. caput] sceal wisian ðæm fotum, ðæt hie stæppen on ryhtne weg.
OE   Maxims I 67   Hond sceal heofod inwyrcan.
?c1200   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 6469   Þeȝȝ..fellenn dun..To buȝhenn. & to lutenn himm Wiþþ hæfedd. & wiþþ heorrte.
c1400   Wyclif On the Seven Deadly Sins (Bodl. 647) in Sel. Eng. Wks. (1871) III. 134   Monnis hond helpis his heved.
a1413  (c1385)    Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde (Pierpont Morgan) (1882) iii. l. 894   Discrecioun out of youre hed is gon.
?c1450   tr. Bk. Knight of La Tour Landry (1906) 22   Thei that haue an euell[e] hede and wold chide.
1559   W. Cuningham Cosmogr. Glasse 159   There is now an other dout entred into my hed.
1574   J. Baret Aluearie H 263   They remembred, or it came into their heads.
1577   A. Golding tr. J. Calvin Serm. Epist. Ephesians xlii. f. 299v   If a woman haue a froward head of hir owne, so as shee must bee brawling euery minute of an houre, and wil not be subiect to hir husband.
1640   J. Mabbe tr. Cervantes Exemplarie Novells iv. 187   A discreet designe which she had in her head.
1663   J. Goodwin Prelatique Preachers 63   A corrupt ambitious heart, and an head rank of wit, and learning.
1683   tr. F. Pallavicino Whore's Rhetorick 108   To..change her method as may make the deepest impression in the capricious head of that Man she is about to perswade.
1703   R. Neve City & Countrey Purchaser 46   To set their Heads to work at it.
1708   Swift Elegy on Partridge in Wks. (1755) II. i. 258   He had often had it in his head.
1748   S. Richardson Clarissa IV. lii. 314   These lines of Rowe have got into my head; and I shall repeat them very devoutly.
1753   N. Torriano tr. J. B. L. Chomel Hist. Diss. Gangrenous Sore Throat 76   Very odd in her Head, talking irrationally.
1801   M. Edgeworth Forester in Moral Tales I. 188   Accounts..which he kept in his head.
1814   J. Austen Mansfield Park I. i. 6   She could not get her poor sister and her family out of her head .  
1863   E. C. Gaskell Sylvia's Lovers II. xiv. 259   Tell him, Sylvia..for my head's clean gone.
1866   Rural Amer. (Utica, N.Y.) 15 Dec. 370/2   One labors both with his head and hands, while the other discards all kinds of ‘book farming’..and leaves all to manual labor.
1912   F. M. Hueffer Panel i. iv. 109   You meant to get her out of your head.
1930   J. M. Gibbon Melody & Lyric vi. 55   Shakespeare may very well have had the old tune in his head when he wrote the words of the song we know.
1941   D. Thomas Let. 28 May (1987) 486   My head's been whirling with wondering how to get twopence.
1975   Jackie 15 Feb. 34/3   Your head usually rules your heart, but don't be surprised if you're swept off your feet one day!
2002   C. Newland Snakeskin vii. 76   I..willed Mrs Jenkins to use her head before it was too late.

eOE—2002(Hide quotations)


 b. Aptitude in a particular subject or sphere. Frequently in to have a (good, bad, etc.) head for .See also business head n. (b) at business n. Compounds 5.

1642   R. Wright Speech in House of Commons 1   I shall not speake as a Lawyer, for I have no Head for Law.
1674   Dryden et al. Notes Empress of Morocco 70   A man should be learn'd in severall Sciences, and should have a reasonable Philosophicall, and in some measure a Mathematicall head.
1726   G. Crawfurd Lives Officers Crown & State Scotl. 381/1   He seems to have had..a good Head for Business.
1763   C. Johnstone Reverie (new ed.) II. xiii. 81   I can't tell how it is, I have a bad head for politics myself.
1832   J. B. Fraser Highland Smugglers III. x. 256   What..would you have done without Glenvallich's good business head?
1876   C. H. Webb Sea-weed & what we Seed 101   Do not let anything I may have said lead you to believe that my friend Briggs has not a great financial head.
1895   Windsor Mag. 2 509/2   I didn't rightly understand it, never having had a good head for figures.
1930   J. B. Priestley Angel Pavement vi. 301   You say I haven't a head for business.
1985   J. Kerman Musicol. 163   Since not everybody has a head for theory, a lot of fuzzy material of this kind is written by ethnomusicologists long past their student days.
1996   Flying Aug. 109/2   Justin, whose father is a pilot, has a good math head.
2007   C. Berg Flesh & Spirit iv. 35   Your explanations were very clear, and you've surely a good head for maps and scouting.

1642—2007(Hide quotations)

 c. A person's ability to tolerate something.

 (a) A person's ability to tolerate the effects of alcoholic drink or (in later use) other intoxicating substances. In early use with modifying word, esp. in strong head; in later use frequently with for. Cf. hardhead n.2 4.

a1686   T. Watson Body Pract. Divinity (1692) 531   It must be a strong Head that bears heady Wine.
1748   R. Arnald Crit. Comm. Bk. Wisdom Jesus Son of Sirach xxxi. 165/1   Value not thyself upon a strong Head, much less affect the Character of a hard Drinker.
a1827   W. Hickey Mem. (1913) I. iv. 35   I replied that I could drink as much as the best of them, and..I had, for such a youngster, a tolerable strong head.
1919   E. O'Neill Moon of Caribbees 191   I've a head for strong drink, as ye know, but he hasn't.
1932   E. Bowen To North xiii. 131   Markie had a good head; if he had been very drunk he was not drunk now.
1990   C. Davis Dog Horse Rat ix. 102   He had a head for dope, he said, never lost himself entirely.
2000   C. McCullough Morgan's Run 164   Jimmy Price was a Somerset yokel with a poor head for rum.

a1686—2000(Hide quotations)


 (b) A person's ability to tolerate heights. Now frequently in to have a (good, bad, etc.) head for heights .

1850   W. A. Bromfield Let. 7 Nov. in Lett. Egypt & Syria (1856) iv. 48   With by no means a strong head for climbing dizzy heights, I found I could look down from any part of the ascent without the least feeling whatever of giddiness.
1854   R. Curzon Armenia ix. 138   It requires much activity, and a good head for looking over a height, to attempt to come up with them [sc. wild sheep].
1900   C. E. M. Russell Bullet & Shot xv. 275   I have a very bad head for precipitous ground.
1954   I. Murdoch Under Net vi. 98   I..looked at the drop, and decided that I was not a daring fellow. I have no head for heights.
2001   Adventure Trav. July 27/2   You need a good head for heights on all climbing paths.

1850—2001(Hide quotations)


 3. The head as a part of the body essential to life; (hence) one's life, esp. with reference to the fact or danger of being killed. Sometimes also more generally: a person's physical safety or well-being, esp. as entrusted to another person (chiefly in keeper of a person's head , after quot. a1382).Frequently in various idiomatic phrases involving the idea of beheading, and often with literal reference to this. See also to lose one's head at Phrases 4j, to make (also cut, etc.) shorter by a head at Phrases 6a, heads will roll at roll v.2 Phrases 11.

OE   Laws of Edgar (Nero E.i) iv. xi. 212   Gif..þæt leas bið, sy he þeof & þolige heafdes & ealles þæs þe he age.
OE   Seven Sleepers (Julius) (1994) 34   Gif man ahwer ofaxian mihte þæt hi [sc. the Christians] manna ænig on genere heolde, þæt se wære his heafdes scyldig.
c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 14049   Min hafued [c1300 Otho heued] beo to wedde þat isæid ich þe habbe. soð buten lese.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1963) 1 Kings xxviii. 2   I kepere of myn heuyd schal puttyn þee alle daies.
c1425   Bk. Found. St. Bartholomew's (1923) 21 (MED)   Hym I haue made and deputid keper of my hede and of all thyng that parteyneth to me.
a1450  (c1385)    Chaucer Complaint of Mars (Tanner 346) (1871) l. 205   Somtyme if that ielousye hit knewe They myghte lyghtly ley her hede to borow.
c1485  (▸1456)    G. Hay Bk. Law of Armys (2005) 109   He yat rebellis to the prince..suld be the law of armes tyne the hede.
1559   W. Baldwin et al. Myrroure for Magistrates Clarence f. lxxvii   The peril of my hed.
1620   Bp. J. Hall Contempl. V. O.T. xiv. 65   Achish dares trust Dauid on his side; yea, to keepe his head for euer.
1635   W. Jones Comm. Epist. St. Paul 520   She hazarded her owne life: if her house had beene searched, and the Spies found with her, it had cost her her head.
a1704   T. Brown Dialogue Oxf. Schollars in Wks. (1707) I. i. 4   I'le wager my Head against thee.
1749   H. Fielding Tom Jones II. v. iv. 135   Many's the Man would have given his Head to have had my Lady told.  
1822   A. M. Porter Roche-Blanche II. x. 417   Yet will I give my head to the block, instead of his, if need come!
1859   Hebrew Rev. 16 Dec. 133/2   Thou art the keeper of my head, and the watcher of my health.
1887   Princess Christian tr. Mem. Wilhelmine 142   Proofs enough against this scoundrel, Fritz, to cost him his head.
1928   N. Richardson Mother of Kings iii. 181   Poor fellow—it cost him his head, this and his friendship for Dubarry.
1999   J. Wood Broken Estate 1   He [sc. Sir Thomas More] is also seen as..an English Cicero of the pre-Reformation who nobly gave his head to forces beyond his control.

OE—1999(Hide quotations)


 a. A representation, figure, or image of a head.

OE   Ælfric Homily: De Falsis Diis (Corpus Cambr. 178) in J. C. Pope Homilies of Ælfric (1968) II. 689   Þa wæs Dagones heafod æt þære dura forcorfen.., and Dagon læg heafodleas ætforan þam scrine, for þam þe hit ne gedafenode þære deofollican anlicnysse þæt heo wið þæt halige scrin swa healice stode.
lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Laud) (Peterborough interpolation) anno 1070   Þa ut-laga..namen þa þe kynehelm of ure Drihtnes heafod eall of smeate golde.
c1325  (c1300)    Chron. Robert of Gloucester (Calig. A.xi) (1887) l. 6596   He..is kinges croune nom, & sette is vpe þe rode heued, & sede þat he alone Was worþe to croune bere.
a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) iv. l. 236   How besy that he was Upon clergie an Hed of bras To forge.
1415   in F. A. Page-Turner Bedfordshire Wills (1914) 28   A litil gilte ewer of a pynt stondynge opon ladys hed.
c1425   Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) ii. l. 696   Many gargoyl & many hidous hed.
a1500  (?a1325)    Otuel & Roland (1935) l. 1226   Men Brouȝt hym an helm bryȝt..þere-on an adderes heued aplyȝt.
1585   T. Washington tr. N. de Nicolay Nauigations Turkie ii. iii. 33   The statue of a woman..certaine yeeres before the head had been taken away.
1616   T. Coryate Traveller for Eng. Wits 44   I haue a very curious white marble head of an ancient Heros or Gyant-like Champion.
1625   S. Purchas Pilgrimes II. viii. xi. 1356   He gaue him three Turkes heads in a Shield for Armes.
1705   J. Addison Remarks Italy 36   A Head of Titian, by his own Hand.
1782   H. Walpole Vertue's Anecd. Painting (ed. 3) IV. iv. 192   The Shrimp-girl, a head, by Bartolozzi.
1849   Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. x. 650   William and Mary must be king and queen. The heads of both must appear together on the coin.
1866   Edinb. Rev. Oct. 519   It [sc. a cameo] represented..a profile head of Flora, in very high relief.
1921   G. C. Williamson Miniature Collector xi. 133   Cosway produced a Head of one of the Virtues done in chalk.
1982   A. D. Trendall & A. Cambitoglou Red-figured Vases of Apulia II. xxv. 808   The heads on these two vases..are somewhat cruder in style.
2010   Art Q. Summer 5/2   A painting showing a head of Christ, which had hung unremarked for 70 years in a Bradford-on-Avon church.

OE—2010(Hide quotations)


 b. In plural or (less commonly) singular. The side of a coin which bears the figure of a head (opposed to tail n.1 4h); the obverse. Chiefly paired with tails, esp. with reference to the practice of tossing a coin to determine a winner or to make a decision.Recorded earliest in heads or tails n., adj., and int. at Phrases 3r(b). See also heads I win, (and) tails you lose at Phrases 3r(c).

1675   T. Duffett Mock-tempest iv. ii. 37   I'le tell y'what, wee'l play heads or tails, who goes first, that's fair now, e'nt it?
1729   B. Wilson tr. J. A. de Thou Hist. Own Time I. iv. 207   The Inscription on the Head of the Farnesian Coin..was P. Alois. Farn. Parm. et Plac. Dux.
1756   Ladies' Diary 46   Suppose 12 Half-pence to be thrown up, and those that come up Heads to be taken away, and the remaining ones to be thrown up again.
1801   J. Strutt Sports & Pastimes iv. ii. 251   One person tosses the halfpenny up and the other calls at pleasure head or tail.
1834   T. De Quincey Sketches Life & Manners in Tait's Edinb. Mag. Mar. 86/2   ‘We tossed up’ to settle the question... ‘Heads’ came up.
1838   A. De Morgan Ess. Probabilities 82   In 100,000 tosses, between what limits is it 99 to 1 that the heads shall be contained?
1884   St. James's Gaz. 5 Dec. 6/1   A coin can be so ‘doctored’ as to fall almost invariably heads or tails at will.
1911   Collier's 7 Oct. 28/1   [They] lifted their fingers from the coins. ‘Four heads and two tails,’ said Nalakiel.
1931   P. A. Taylor Cape Cod Myst. viii. 120   I lost every bet I ever made in my life. If I called heads, it came tails.
1960   A. Rapoport Fights, Games, & Deb. (1961) vi. 117   A coin is tossed. If a head turns up, you win 1¢.
1980   A. J. Jones Game Theory iv. 177   Suppose on the toss of a fair coin one can win $20 on heads and lose $10 on tails. The expected value of the game is $5.
2005   V. Swarup Q & A 23   Time to make a decision. I take out my trusted one-rupee coin. Heads I cooperate with her. Tails I tell her ta-ta.

1675—2005(Hide quotations)


c. British colloquial. A postage stamp; (sometimes) spec. a penny stamp. Obsolete (hist. in later use).So called from the figure of the sovereign's head depicted on all British stamps. Cf. queen's head n. at queen n. Compounds 3b.

1840   R. H. Barham Let. 30 July in R. H. D. Barham Life (1870) II. viii. 99   One of those abominable little heads which the wisdom of our Post Office people has invented.
1854   R. S. Surtees Handley Cross (new ed.) xix. 147   Take that to the Post, and mind you don't pick the 'ead off.
1872   Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours 12 187/2   Would ye plaze put a red head on it (anglice, a postage-stamp).
1891   Lincs. Notes & Queries 2 251   Penny postage-stamps are still frequently called ‘heads’, the other kinds seem always to go by the name of stamps.
1927   G. Sturt Small Boy in Sixties i. 2   One very curious request would sometimes come from a villager; the man or woman asking for ‘a head’.

1840—1927(Hide quotations)


 a. A person's hair; the whole mass or body of this. Now chiefly in head of hair.

OE   tr. Medicina de Quadrupedibus (Vitell.) ii. 238   Genim þone camb þe heo ana hyre heafod [c1150 Harl. 6258B heafad, L. capillos] mid cemde.
OE   Monasteriales Indicia (1996) xcvi. 40   Ðonne þu þe..biddan wille þæt þu þin heafod þwean mote, þonne stric þu mid bradre hande on þin feax, swilce þu hit þwea.
a1225  (?OE)    MS Lamb. in R. Morris Old Eng. Homilies (1868) 1st Ser. 41   Summe bi þa fet..summe bi þe hefede [L. capillis].
?c1225   Ancrene Riwle (Cleo.: Scribe B) (1972) 310 (note)    Hwa se wule ieveset, ah ha mot te oftere weschen & kemben hire heauet.
1340   Ayenbite (1866) 176   Ynoȝ þer is of ydelnesse aboute hire heaued, to kembe, to wesse, ine trossinge, an ine sseweres pouringe.
c1400  (?a1300)    Kyng Alisaunder (Laud) (1952) l. 1999 (MED)   His heued was crul and ȝeluȝ þe her.
1530   J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 662/1   I holde best to polle my heed.
1565   T. Cooper Thesaurus Sig. Gg2/2   Emissi crines,..heare cast abrode as a woman loosinge hir head.
1587   J. Hooker tr. Giraldus Cambrensis Vaticinall Hist. Conquest Ireland ii. xxxviii. 55/1 in Holinshed's Chron. (new ed.) II   This head of haire they call a glibe.
1678   T. Duffett Psyche Debauch'd ii. iii. 28   Let him have shirt full clean, Let head be comb'd, and wash'd his face.
1717   Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 1 Apr. (1965) I. 327   I never saw in my Life so many fine heads of hair.
1775   R. B. Sheridan Rivals i. i. 4   He'll never forsake his bob, tho' all the college should appear with their own heads!
1809   W. Nicholson Brit. Encycl. V. at Peruke   It appears that this term was originally applied to describe a fine natural head of long hair.
1832   J. Morier Zohrab III. iii. 73   A barber, whose good offices he had secured, to trim his head, beard, mustaches, and curls.
1882   Day of Rest 206/1   [His] frizzly, unkempt head of hair stood out..round his head like a halo.
1931   W. Faulkner Sanctuary ii. 18   She saw him..: a thin man in shapeless clothes; a head of thinning and ill-kempt hair.
1977   ‘J. le Carré’ Honourable Schoolboy xiii. 292   He looked into the ceiling mirror and caught the glitter of an electric-blue suit and a full head of black hair well greased.
2007   Nylon Feb. 131/1   A giant, wilting hat atop a head of shiny curls.

OE—2007(Hide quotations)


 b. The hair as dressed in a particular (elaborate) style; esp. a style popular in the 18th cent., characterized by powdered or pomaded hair drawn up over a cushion or stuffing and dressed with gauze, ribbon, etc.; a removable wig or headdress in this style. Cf. high head n.2, lace head n. at lace n. and adj. Compounds 2. Now hist. and rare.

c1450  (?a1400)    Quatrefoil of Love (BL Add.) l. 473 (MED)   Denyvs damysels..With purfelle and peloure and hedys full hye.
1484   Caxton tr. G. de La Tour Landry Bk. Knyght of Toure xlviii. sig. d viii   The remenaunt of their heedes was lyke two hornes.
a1513   R. Fabyan New Cronycles Eng. & Fraunce (1516) I. ccxxiiii. f. cxlvi   For that tyme Clerkes vsed busshed and brayded hedys.
1580   J. Stow Chrons. of Eng. 490   Piked shoes, high heads, and long tayled gownes.
?1695   E. Ward Auction 15   Two of your Metropolitan Sash Window Cherubins, that er'e [sic] Cut out a Muslin Head on a Counter.
1696   London Gaz. No. 3199/4   A striped Muslin Head, laced with a fine small edging.
1712   J. Addison Spectator No. 323. ¶7   At my Toilet, try'd a new Head.
1731   Gentleman's Mag. Mar. 124/1   Her Majesty..wore a flower'd Muslin Head, and Edging.
1752   Johnson Rambler No. 191. ⁋9   Ladies..asked me the price of my best head.
1792   Northampton Mercury 20 Dec.   The ladies now wear the lappets to their gauze heads worked with aces of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs, and call them quadrille heads.
1828   ‘Mrs. Markham’ Hist. France II. xxxix. 447   I have seen caricatures of hairdressers mounted on ladders, dressing the ladies' heads.
1882   C. Hoey & J. Lillie tr. A. Challamel Hist. Fashion in France xv. 138   For thirty years those gigantic ‘heads’ held their place at Versailles, under the eyes of the old monarch who ‘protested in vain against towering head-dresses’.
1957   C. W. Cunnington & P. Cunnington Handbk. Eng. Costume 18th Cent. 375   These elaborate ‘heads’ were sometimes made to remain untouched for a month or more.

c1450—1957(Hide quotations)


 6. Hunting. The antlers of a deer. Cf. attire n. 5.

c1400  (?c1390)    Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 1154 (MED)   Þe herttez..with þe hyȝe hedes.
c1425   Twiti Venery (Vesp. B.xii) 151   He [sc. a hart] goth wexyng tyl he come to xxxij yere..his hed aftir that tyme wexith no furthere.
c1500   King & Hermit in M. M. Furrow Ten 15th-cent. Comic Poems (1985) 249   I saw a dere..So gret a hed as he bare, Sych one saw I neuer are.
1557   Earl of Surrey et al. Songes & Sonettes sig. A.iiv   The hart hath hong his olde hed on the pale.
1575   G. Gascoigne Noble Arte Venerie xviii. 46   If you geld an Hart before he haue an heade, he will neuer beare heade.
1615   G. Markham Countrey Contentments i. i. 29   Stags yeerely cast their heads in March, Aprill, May or June.
1674   N. Cox Gentleman's Recreation i. 34   The Rain-deer..intrapped with Nets..by reason of his great and spreading Head.
1718   G. Jacob Compl. Sportsman ii. 84   Having cast their Heads, the old Deer immediately withdraw to some Thickets.
1859   J. Conway Lett. from Highlands xii. 138   We are momentarily expecting Sandy to arrive with the two deer... If you like, I promise you one of my first two ‘heads’.
1892   Chambers's Jrnl. 14 May 318/2   The state of a deer's antlers, by which his age is known, is spoken of as his ‘head’.
1958   Times 4 Aug. 9/5   Local farmers..have watched the stags steadily grow their new ‘heads’.
1978   D. Hart-Davis Monarchs of Glen ii. 6   A good modern royal—a head of twelve points—would measure thirty-two or thirty-three inches.
1989   Country Life 22 June 174/2   One stag has grown a head of 18 points.

c1400—1989(Hide quotations)


7. A horse's headstall (headstall n.1 1). Usually coupled with reins. Obsolete.

1756   Gazetteer & London Daily Advertiser 4 May   Heads, without Reins, 2s. 3d. each.
1834   Horse 44   The heads and reins will last much longer by..drawing them..through a clean oily rag.
1907   Army & Navy Co-operative Soc.: Rules & Price List 303/1   Ladies' or gentlemen's Weymouth heads and reins, with noseband, billeted, complete.

1756—1907(Hide quotations)

1874   C. M. Scammon Marine Mammals N. Amer. iii. 239   The oil taken from the case of the Sperm Whale is..when put into casks..known as head, or head-matter.

1874—1874(Hide quotations)


 9. slang (orig. U.S.). Oral sex; fellatio or cunnilingus. See also to give head at Phrases 4e(c).

1941   G. Legman in G. W. Henry Sex Variants II. 1168   Head, a generic noun or predicative nominative referring to a fellator, as, e.g. ‘looking for head’. Term reported from Montreal in 1940.
1969   C. Major All-night Visitors 9   I now pop the question in the middle of all this intense gratification: ‘Some head, baby?’
1993   M. Gribble Ten go In 30   I still think we should..buy her a few schnapps and get some head.
2003   J. Nelson Sexual Healing iv. 44   We're selling sex, not relationships... Truth, justice, and great head.

1941—2003(Hide quotations)

 ** A person, animal, or group of animals.
 10. In enumeration. See also per head at per prep. 1a.

 a. An individual person. Frequently in a head: per person.

OE   Wulfstan Homily: Be Mistlican Gelimpan (Hatton 113) in A. S. Napier Wulfstan (1883) 170   Swa æt heafde peninc, swa æt heorðe peninc, swa æt sulhgange peninc.
?a1400  (a1338)    R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt) (1996) ii. 134   Þei..left..þe lond on a forward dere to pay ilk a hede a peny to þam bi ȝere.
c1450   King Ponthus (Digby) in Publ. Mod. Lang. Assoc. Amer. (1897) 12 95   They be made tributorye, and euery hede pays a besaunt of gold.
1535   Bible (Coverdale) 1 Chron. xiii. C   This is the nombre of the heades harnessed vnto the warre, which came to Dauid vnto Hebron.
1535   Bible (Coverdale) 1 Chron. xxiv. C   Counted after the nombre of ye names heade by heade.
1679   P. Rycaut Present State Greek Church 92   From every Papa, or Priest, [he receives] a Dollar yearly per Head.
1716   B. Church Entertaining Passages Philip's War i. 45   The Captain with his Company..received their Praemium, which was Thirty Shillings per head, for the Enemies which they had killed or taken.
1748   H. Walpole Let. 11 Aug. in Corr. (1941) IX. 70   A play at Kingston where the places are twopence a head.
1847   M. M. Sherwood Life xxi. 355   An anna a head for each boy.
1869   E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest III. xi. 57   Except by taking the votes not by heads, but by tribes, cities, or cantons.
1892   W. Besant London ix. 467   The quantity of tea imported about this time amounted to no more than three-quarters of a pound per annum for every person in the three kingdoms, whereas it is now no less than thirty-five pounds for every head.
1958   P. Berton Klondike Fever iii. 137   Soon she was shuttling passengers to St. Michael at one thousand dollars a head.
1992   Observer 29 Nov. 51/1   They suffered their sixth home loss in front of a crowd a few heads short of 20,000.
2000   Independent 8 June i. 5/1   Delegates will start the day with a ‘coffee, tea and danish’ at £5.95 a head.

OE—2000(Hide quotations)


 b. An individual animal, esp. a herd animal.Usually with plural unchanged after a numeral or other quantifier.

OE   Manumission, Bath (Corpus Cambr. 111) in J. Earle Hand-bk. Land-charters (1888) 268   Leofenoð..hæfð geboht hine & his ofspring ut æt Ælfsige..mid fif oran & mid xii heafdon sceapa.
1472–3   Rolls of Parl.: Edward IV (Electronic ed.) Parl. Oct. 1472 1st Roll §38. m. 17   The said mysdoers come to Trelowya, and there fett .ix. xx hede of shepe.
1482   in T. Thomson Acts Lords Auditors (1839) 109/1   The awaytakin..of xiiij hede of nolt, that is to say three kye, thre oxin, viij twa ȝere aldis.
1513   G. Douglas tr. Virgil Æneid viii. i. 96   Wyth thretty heyd..of grysis syne.
1533   in F. W. Weaver Wells Wills (1890) 105   x hed of shepe and lams.
1642   in New Haven Colonial Rec. (1857) 82   A peny a head for goates and kids, half to the bringer in of the cattell & half to the pound.
1677   W. Hubbard Narr. Troubles with Indians New-Eng. i. 92   They had killed twenty head of Neat Cattle.
1758   Case of Five Millions 23   At Cork, where Eighty-thousand Heads of Cattle have been slaughtered annually, for several Years.
1773   Ann. Reg. 1772 160/2   The low grounds were laid under water, and many head of cattle drowned.
1838   C. Gutzlaff & A. Reed China Opened II. xxvii. 549   If a person refuses to receive a traveller for the night, and he perishes with cold, the owner of the tent shall forfeit nine heads of cattle.
1866   Trollope Belton Estate II. v. 119   Every head of cattle about the place had died.
1900   Country Life Illustr. 1 Sept. 262/1   If they all..killed 30,000 head in a season, there would be 1,800,000,000 head of game killed in the year.
1948   Life 6 Sept. 28/2   Only an emergency pumping system kept 250 head of his cattle from dying of thirst.
2007   B. F. Noble & S. N. Kulshreshtha in B. D. Thraves et al. Saskatchewan xv. 357   Owners are charged a per diem for each head of livestock pastured.

OE—2007(Hide quotations)


 a. A person (of a specified type). Chiefly with modifying word indicating mental attitude or ability.

c1300   St. Thomas Becket (Laud) l. 871 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 131 (MED)   Betere it were þat on heued In peril him brouȝte, Þane al-holie churche were..i-do to nouȝte.
c1400  (?a1387)    Langland Piers Plowman (Huntington HM 137) (1873) xviii. l. 85   Þorw werre and wrake and wycked hyfdes May no preiour pees make.
1551   T. Wilson Rule of Reason sig. Xv   Some heades are very bolde to entre farther, then witte can retche.
1574   J. Baret Aluearie P 436   A pleasant companion; a mery head.
1579   E. K. in Spenser Shepheardes Cal. Gen. Argt.   Sauing the leaue of such learned heads.
1641   Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia sig. Bv   Pestered through the admission of too many young heades.
1715   T. Burnet Second Tale of Tub Ded. p. xxii   The Lower House of Convocation, where so many learned, ingenious, and I may add cool Heads, meet for the Benefit of our Ecclesiastical Constitution.
1795   G. Morris Diary 29 June (1888) II. xxxi. 94   Montesquiou (whatever may be his heart) is certainly one of their best heads.
1828   T. De Quincey Elements Rhetoric in Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. Dec. 900/1   Different crowned heads..bidding against each other.
1887   Princess Christian tr. Mem. Wilhelmine 281   Those wise heads came to the conclusion that there was hope.
1934   W. McDougall Relig. & Sci. of Life vii. 110   Is it not clear that you, the biologist Emperor, will call to your counsels all the wisest heads of your nation?
1998   Independent 25 May ii. 2/1   The flight of crowned heads after the Second World War.
2009   Sunday Independent (Ireland) (Nexis) 17 May   Shrewd heads like Ed Mulhall..were saying..that the Late Late would not be a good move for her.

c1300—2009(Hide quotations)


 b. As the second element in more or less fixed compounds used (usually disparagingly or humorously) to denote a person having a mind or head of the sort specified by the first element. Also in compounds of this type used attributively to designate such a person (more or less equivalent to headed adj. 1a). Cf. pate n.1 1b.Recorded earliest in blockhead n. 2. See also hardhead n.2 2, hothead n., thick-head n. 1a, etc.

1549   Coverdale et al. tr. Erasmus Paraphr. Newe Test. II. 1 Cor. xi. f. xxxiv   A blockeheade that hathe loste the iudgemente of nature.
1591   A. Fraunce Countesse of Pembrokes Yuychurch i. ii. iii. sig. D3   Trope-turned tale, or ryming ditty, deryued From foole-hardy Poets, or vaine-head Rhetoricasters.
1602   T. Dekker Satiro-mastix sig. I3v   To bite euery Motley-head vice by'th nose.
1825   Universal Songster I. 399   I say, old Bumble Head, give us a pen'orth of bread, and a ha'purth of small beer.
1828   Scott Fair Maid of Perth iii, in Chron. Canongate 2nd Ser. II. 90   The swaggering Smith, and one or two other hot heads.
1909   Z. Grey Short-stop vii. 119   In the dressing-room after the game the players howled about this one run that Chase's stupidity had given Wheeling. They called him ‘wooden-head’, ‘sap-head’, ‘sponge-head’, ‘dead-head’.
1915   Dial. Notes IV. iii. 205   My sister likes the country but she gets so tired of trying to make anything of the noddy-heads.
1952   J. Lait & L. Mortimer U.S.A. Confidential iii. xxviii. 355   Oscar Ewing, the blubber-head from the Bronx, sells the party along with his socialized medicine.
1994   R. Gunesekera Reef (1998) 9   Stupid idiot, you chicken-head bumpkin, you pumpkin-face. Have you no respect for property?
2011   Herald-Times (Bloomington, Indiana) 22 Aug. b4/2   ‘It's over, frizz-head,’ chanted hundreds of jubilant men and women.

1549—2011(Hide quotations)


 12. A group or indefinite number of animals; esp. a stock or managed population of game or (now usually) fish.

1601   A. Munday & H. Chettle Death Earle of Huntington sig. H3v   Howling like a head of hungry wolues.
1645   J. Vicars Gods Arke 155   They had rescued a head of cattle, which were driven away by the enemy toward Newcastle.
1795   W. Marshall Rev. Ess. i. iii, in Rev. Landscape 76   A head of deer, arranged in such close and regular order, as to give the idea of a spot, or a clump of meagre Scotch firs.
1833   Sporting Mag. Mar. 382/2   A plantation..in which he has been most particularly desirous to establish a head of pheasants.
1852   C. W. Hoskyns Talpa 5   Adapted for the..accommodation of a better and larger head of stock.
1894   Times 16 Apr. 7/3   Shooting tenants ought to be obliged to wire-in their woods where they kept a large head of rabbits.
1912   Forest & Stream 10 Aug. 163/1   Parts of the Balnagown estate have for centuries carried a superior head of deer.
1986   Trout Fisherman July 74/4   The water had been neglected and held a large head of coarse fish.
2010   Irish News (Nexis) 23 Sept. 61   The Erriff has been having a very good couple of weeks and there should now be a good head of fish throughout the river.

1601—2010(Hide quotations)

 13. colloquial (orig. U.S.).

 a. With preceding modifying word: an addict, or (later) a habitual user of a particular substance (as alcoholic drink, a drug, etc.). Later also without modifying word: a drug addict or drug user.acidhead, crackhead, dopehead, hophead, meth head, pothead, etc.: see the first element.

1856   F. C. Adams Justice in By-ways xv. 171   They don't give them much to eat in jail I admit, but it is a great place for straightening the morals of a rum-head like Tom.
1915   Railway Conductor July 479/2   Those were good switchmen if they would only let the booze alone! But a ‘gin-head’ can't get along on a railroad these days.
1936   L. Duncan Over Wall i. 21   I saw the more advanced narcotic addicts.., laudanum fiends, and last but not least, the veronal heads.
1952   Time 7 July 19/3   Being a ‘head’, Marti feels, is being part of a whole new culture. ‘Everybody's a head now. One out of every five persons you meet on the street are [sic] heads.’
1958   M. Cooper High School Confidential 89   Laughing like a grasshead now, she made another determined lunge and this time successfully caught her hands around the wheel.
1969   It 11 Apr. 3/3   Berlin is alive with heads, dropping acid and STP in cinemas, parks, buses.
1991   Texas Monthly Dec. 48/1   The smoke-free world, where I could scowl at tobacco-heads and use little coughs to signal my disapproval and moral superiority.
2006   J. C. Oates Missing Mom 178   A crystal meth-head, the detective had called Ward Lynch. Desperate for cash, to feed his addiction.

1856—2006(Hide quotations)


 b. Usually with preceding modifying word. A person who is very enthusiastic about a particular interest or activity; a devotee, an avid fan. Cf. addict n. 2.breadhead, metalhead, petrolhead, etc.: see the first element.

1960   ‘Lord Buckley’ Hiparama of Classics 7   The Reed Heads, the Lute Heads, and the Flute Heads.
1969   It 18 July 9/4   Nightride was taken from a spot so convenient to many music heads and put on at an awkward hour.
1987   K. Lette Girls' Night Out (1989) 152   Mum and Dad are trying to pair me off with Costa. He's a total soccer-head.
1999   Kred Nov. 24/4   One for the masses and heads alike.
2012   Atlantic Jan. 44/2   Michael Stipe [is] a profound Patti-head—he once described his encounter with her 1975 album, Horses, as ‘an epiphanal discovery’.

1960—2012(Hide quotations)


 14. North American colloquial  (a) A fellow, a guy.  (b) A young woman.

1913   J. P. Buschlen Canad. Bankclerk xii. 202   Willis is one of the decentest heads around this dump.
1941   A. J. Liebling in New Yorker 26 Apr. 24/1   There are lady heels, too, but if they are young Morty calls them ‘heads’..which has the same meaning as ‘broads’ or ‘dolls’.
1943   R. Chandler High Window xxxi. 200   ‘Gents like Alex Morny..don't like private detectives.’ ‘Morny's a good head,’ Eddie Prue said coldly.
1972   Ski Nov. 86/3   Crouch was not a bad-looking head, but somehow I couldn't see taking her out late to the Blue Whale.
1995   L. Stavsky et al. A 2 Z 46   I knew there'd be trouble when I saw the ride full of heads pull over.

1913—1995(Hide quotations)

 II. A thing or part of a thing resembling a head in form or position; a position analogous to that of the head.
 * The top, upper, or principal part or end of something. (In the case of physical objects typically differentiated from the rest of the object by projecting or by having a distinctive shape.)
 15. With reference to plants and fungi.

 a. A bulb of garlic. Also: the bulb of various related plants, as onion and leek (now rare).

eOE   Bald's Leechbk. (Royal) (1865) ii. xxxii. 234   Genim garleaces þreo heafdu & grene rudan twa handfulle.
lOE   Recipe (Vitell. C.iii) in T. O. Cockayne Leechdoms, Wortcunning, & Starcraft (1864) I. 376   Nim þes leaces heafda & dryg swiðe.
▸ 1440   Promptorium Parvulorum (Harl. 221) 232   Heed of garlek, lely, or oþer lyke [c1500 Harl. 2274 or of a leke], bulbus.
1577   B. Googe tr. C. Heresbach Foure Bks. Husbandry ii. f. 61   Garlicke groweth both of the head & the seede, as the Onyon and other of this kinde dooth.
a1697   J. Aubrey Wiltshire (1862) 198   The mowers..have always a pound of beefe and a head of garlick every man.
1753   J. Lind Treat. Scurvy ii. iv. 233   They should..eat a bit of raw onion, or a head of garlic, in a morning before they are exposed to the rains and the washings of the sea.
1769   S. Cooke Compl. Eng. Gardener 134   To destroy Moles. Take a head or two of garlic, onion, or leek, and put it into their holes.
1839   Army & Navy Chron. 14 Mar. 171/1   It is pretended that a head of garlic will preserve a child from witchcraft.
1923   Times 25 July 10/1   A roast leg of mutton..is improved by two heads of garlic near the bone.
1977   Bakersfield Californian 27 July 56/1   One reason we prize the Wolfert recipe is that it uses the 40 cloves (about three heads of garlic) unpeeled.
1998   N. Lawson How to Eat (1999) 70   Reckoning on half a head of garlic and 125g of shallots per person, peel the shallots and put them in a tray in the oven.

eOE—1998(Hide quotations)


 b. The rounded leafy top of a tree or shrub.

a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1869) II. 61 (MED)   Schroysbury is a citee..isette vppon þe coppe of an hill..Britouns cleped hit somtyme Pengwern, þat is þe heed of a faire [?a1475 anon. tr. firre; L. abietis] tree.
?1523   J. Fitzherbert Bk. Husbandry f. xliii   And euery boughe woll haue a newe heed.
a1599   Spenser Canto Mutabilitie vii. viii, in Faerie Queene (1609) sig. Ii   Most dainty trees; that..Seeme to bow their bloosming heads full lowe.
1676   M. Cook Manner of raising Forrest-trees xxxv. 119   If a Tree be blasted in part, or the whole head, cut all that is blasted or dead close off to the Quick, and take out all dead boughs.
1712   J. James tr. A.-J. Dézallier d'Argenville Theory & Pract. Gardening 157   Your Trees..should be cut..by taking off their Heads.
1794   W. Cowper Needless Alarm 11   Oaks..that had once a head.
1861   A. Pratt Flowering Plants & Ferns Great Brit. V. 80   A large tree..with a bushy head.
1917   J. E. Rogers Trees Worth Knowing 78   The wind breaks the branches, destroys the symmetry of the tree's head.
2007   M. J. McGroarty Easy Plant Propagation 21   These multiple buds will form the head of the tree, and you need to prune them.

a1387—2007(Hide quotations)


 c. The rounded seed pod of various plants, esp. a poppy. Cf. poppy head n. 2.

a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) II. xvii. cxxviii. 1023   Popy..haue grete hedes as a pomgarnat and þerinne is the seed yclosed.
1649   N. Culpeper Physicall Directory 112   Take the heads of white Poppies and black, when both of them are green, of each six ounces.
1699   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 21 119   Lychnis's, Poppies, Antirrhinum's, and many others have their seeds in heads, which when ripe, are open at top.
1798   Trans. Soc. Encouragem. Arts, Manuf., & Commerce 16 374   A small Instrument..used by the Natives of Hindoostan for scarifying the Heads of Poppies.
1831   G. Don Gen. Syst. Gardening & Bot. I. 131/2   From the white-seeded variety [of poppy]..opium is obtained from the heads by incision and sometimes by expression.
1907   Pharmaceut. Jrnl. 7 Sept. 836/1   White poppy is the one richest in opium, and women and children are set to work gathering the heads.
2010   J. Wright Hedgerow 35   If necessary leave them a few days to ripen and when the heads rattle with their seeds turn them upside down and shake.

a1398—2010(Hide quotations)


 d. The (usually stalked) seed-containing structure of a cereal plant, as an ear of wheat, oats, etc., or a cob of maize.

1565   J. Sparke in Hawkins' Voy. (1878) 57   The head of mayis.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics i, in tr. Virgil Wks. 62   Bearded Grain: While yet the Head is green.  
1725   R. Bradley Surv. Anc. Husb. 106   The..Hexastichum of Columella..grows like the former, both in Stalk and Ears, only differing in having..more Rows of Grains upon one Head.
1784   J. F. D. Smyth Tour U.S.A. I. xxxviii. 195   The male flowers..appear something like to the heads or ears of rice.
1822   New Monthly Mag. Jan. 23/1   The top of each head of corn was bare of seeds.
1898   Jrnl. Agric. & Industry Nov. 316   Wheats do not readily cross-fertilise, but the best and largest heads should be selected year after year, and be cultivated separately.
1914   H. F. Macmillan Handbk. Trop. Gardening & Planting (ed. 2) 233   The unripe tender heads or cobs are..considered by most persons a delicious vegetable.
1947   Science 24 Oct. 398/1   The oats produce heads, but instead of ripening to a normal yellow color, these heads tend to have a whitish-green color, and very little grain is produced.
2011   D. Chapman Walking Penwith 50/1   The statuesque, shapely nodding heads of barley.

1565—2011(Hide quotations)


 e. The compact round or conical mass of leaves characteristic of certain types of cabbage, lettuce, etc.; (also) the closely packed overlapping leaf stalks of the celery plant and similar vegetables.

1577   B. Googe tr. C. Heresbach Foure Bks. Husbandry ii. f. 56   The great Cabbedge, with brode leaues and a great head.
1620   T. Venner Via Recta vii. 135   The great, hard, and compacted heads of Cole, commonly called Cabbage.
1693   J. Evelyn tr. J. de La Quintinie Reflect. Agric. xiii. 59 in Compl. Gard'ner   Onions are formed within the ground almost after the same manner as the Heads of Cabbages and Lettuces are on the surface of it.
1736   C. Carter Compl. City & Country Cook (ed. 2) 1   Put in a Head of Celery, and some Parsly Roots. Boil it very tender about an hour.
1786   J. Abercrombie Gardeners Daily Assistant 39   Borecole..is of the cabbage or colewort tribe, with a large curly-leaved open head, and tall stem.
1824   J. C. Loudon Encycl. Gardening (ed. 2) ii. iv. 439   Preserving heads or leaves of vegetables is effected in cellars or sheds.
1885   Times 25 Apr. 14/2   Retail prices:—..celery, 2d. to 6d. per head.
1949   L. P. DeGouy Soup Bk. iv. 146   Shred 1 medium-sized head of fresh green cabbage.
2009   M. Bittman Kitchen Express 168   Core and thinly slice a head of fennel.

1577—2009(Hide quotations)


 f. Any of various kinds of compound inflorescence, as the mass of closely packed flower buds in cauliflower or broccoli, or a dense cluster of flowers arranged in a corymb, umbel, etc.; = capitulum n. 3a.

1597   J. Gerard Herball ii. xxxvi. 246   Cole Florie, or after some Colieflorie, hath many large leaues sleightly endented about the edges,..in the middest of which leaues riseth vp a great white head of hard flowers closely thrust togither.
1652   N. Culpeper Eng. Physitian (new ed.) 217/1   At the tops hereof [sc. stalks of scabious] which are naked and bare of Leaves for a good space, stand round Heads of Flowers, of a pale blewish colour set together in a head.
1704   J. Harris Lexicon Technicum I   Capitulum, in Botanicks, is the Head or Flowring Top of any Plant, being composed of many Flowers and Threads (or Stamina) closely connected in a Globous, Circular or Discous Figure.
1785   T. Martyn tr. J.-J. Rousseau Lett. Elements Bot. vi. 70   An aggregate or capitate flower, or a head of flowers.
1830   J. Marcet Conversat. Veg. Physiol. xxxi. 344   The head of a cauliflower has..much the appearance of a blossom, but it consists only of numerous ramifications of the peduncles.
1880   A. Gray Struct. Bot. v. 147   A Head or Capitulum is a globular cluster of sessile flowers, like those of Red Clover.
1915   H. H. Thomas Bk. Hardy Flowers 457   The flat heads of flowers are a pretty pink shade.
1975   Times 18 Jan. 11/1   Trim the cauliflower and if a whole head is used, cut into medium sized sprigs.
2001   C. Whitehead John Henry Days i. 69   The pliable tang of overcooked heads of broccoli.
2004   S. Morhardt & E. Morhardt Calif. Desert Flowers 29   Asteraceae members have tiny specialized flowers in a tight cluster called a head that usually resembles a single flower.

1597—2004(Hide quotations)


 g. Any of various rounded non-floral structures of a plant or fungus, as the rounded root of a vegetable, the cap or pileus of a fungus, or the rounded end of a trichome (cf. head cell n. at Compounds 4); = capitulum n. 3b, 3c.

1665   R. Hooke Micrographia 128   Resembling the head of a mushroom.
1714   J. Gay Shepherd's Week vi. 56   How turnips hide their swelling heads below, And how the closing coleworts upwards grow.
1834   Paxton's Mag. Bot. 1 63   The manner in which the stamens are spread out renders them incapable, without some assistance, of casting their pollen on the head of the stigma.
1928   New Phytologist 27 265   The greater portion of the inner wall is supplied with trichomes in which the head is divided into four cells.
1964   Amer. Biol. Teacher 26 101/1   In those mosses where the sexes are separated, the antheridia often occur in great numbers in flat-topped flower-like heads.
1985   Plant Physiol. 79 1029/2   Brushing removed the vast majority of heads from trichomes but apparently left most of the stalk cells intact.

1665—1985(Hide quotations)


 h. A flower, esp. one growing at the end of a stem.See also deadhead n.1 6.

1704   Dict. Rusticum   Pendulous-heads, thus Botanists call those Flowers that hang downwards, the Stalk not being able to stand upright.
1787   H. Blair Lect. Rhetoric (ed. 3) I. xvii. 439   Such are the Similies of a hero to a lion, of a person in sorrow to a flower drooping its head.
1842   Floricultural Cabinet Aug. 189   Fuchsira corymbiflora, six feet high, with numerous pendant heads of its splendid flowers, produced a brilliant show.
1889   R. Broughton Red as Rose is She v. 36   How much pleasanter to be out of doors, tweaking off dead rose heads.
1902   Garden 19 Apr. 254/1   S[axifraga] apiculata is just now at its best, looking very bright with its pale sulphur-coloured heads of flower.
1970   D. Tangye Cornish Summer iv. 44   The daffodil is now picked as soon as the head has dropped.
2012   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 14 July 7   Deadhead bush roses to prolong flowering. Remove heads along with a short piece of stem.

1704—2012(Hide quotations)


 a. The striking or cutting part (as distinct from the shaft or handle) of various weapons and tools, as axes, spears, arrows, hammers, clubs, etc.axe, club-, spearhead, etc.: see the first element.In quot. OE: the striking part of a battering ram.

OE   Riddle 53 9   Nu he fæcnum wæg [read weg] þurh his heafdes mæg[en] hildegieste oþrum rymeð.
c1300  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Otho) (1978) l. 11868   Me tok him..ane saft..þar was in þan eande an hefd [c1275 Calig. spærere] swiþe hende.
a1399   in W. G. Benham Oath Bk. Colchester (1907) 7 (MED)   Un xij Lancez with heds, ob.; withowtyn heds 1/4 d.
c1405  (c1390)    Chaucer Sir Thopas (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 171   His spere was of fyn Cipres..The heed ful sharp ygrounde.
c1440  (?a1400)    Sir Perceval (1930) l. 2023   The clobe wheyhed reghte wele..The hede was of harde stele.
a1450  (?a1300)    Richard Coer de Lyon (Caius) l. 2213 in K. Brunner Mittelengl. Vers-roman über Richard Löwenherz (1913) 199 (MED)   Kyng Rychard..Let hym make an axe..The heed was wrought ryght wele, Therin was twenty pounde of stele.
c1515   Ld. Berners tr. Bk. Duke Huon of Burdeux (1882–7) viii. 19   A spere with a sharpe hed.
1545   R. Ascham Toxophilus ii. f. 12   A shaft hath three principall partes, the stele, the fethers, and the head.
1556   in W. H. Turner Select. Rec. Oxf. (1880) 248   The hedd of the mase fell of.
1611   Bible (King James) Deut. xix. 5   A stroke with the axe..and the head slippeth from the helue.  
a1646   D. Wedderburn Vocabula (1685) 38   Baculi caput, the head of the Club.
1723   D. O'Connor tr. G. Keating Gen. Hist. Ireland 238   The Head of the Spear struck against a Stone, and, by the Force of the Blow, the Point of it was bent.
1771   Gentleman's Mag. Mar. 118/1   The handle of a hammer is fixt in its head.
1826   C. Fletcher David i. 26   Six hundred shekels weigh'd the weapon's head.
1857   J. G. Swan Northwest Coast 84   The head of the spear, made like a salmon spear..was attached to a line thirty fathoms long.
1932   Pop. Sci. Monthly Mar. 10/2   When we put the hatchet..through the same blow test, the handle flew off after thirty-five blows... The claws cracked and chipped away before the head came off.
1971   N. Brown Antarctic Housewife vii. 61   The big whale-gun stood in readiness with the head of the harpoon projecting from the barrel.
2001   Sentinel (Stoke-on-Trent) (Nexis) 20 Aug. 5   He accepted he used it but said he hit with the shaft and not the head of the hammer.

OE—2001(Hide quotations)


 b. Mining. In a stamp mill: a block, typically of iron, for crushing ore; each of a number of such blocks which together form the battery (battery n. 7); = stamp n.3 9a.Recorded earliest in stamp-head n. (a) at stamp n.3 Compounds 2.

1758   W. Borlase Nat. Hist. Cornwall 178   The lifters..are armed at the bottom with large masses of iron..called Stamp-heads.
1848   Mem. Geol. Surv. Great Brit. II. ii. 678   In the newest erected set, the ‘head’ of cast-iron, weighs 260 to 280 lbs.
1896   Daily News 11 Mar. 11/5   The new ten heads are running well, but the old 10-head mill has been giving trouble.
1946   V. N. Wood Metall. Materials viii. 221   Mottled and white irons..find application for articles where resistance to abrasion is the primary factor, as in chilled rolls, plough shares, crusher heads, grinding balls [etc.].
1954   Official Year Bk. Commonw. Austral. xviii. 794   A ten-head battery is situated on the Maranboy tin-field and crushes ore for all parties.
2011   S. Lawrence & P. Davies Archaeol. Austral. since 1788 Uncovered vii. 155   The Garfield waterwheel..drove a 15-head stamp battery.

1758—2011(Hide quotations)


 c. A part of a machine that contains a (detachable) tool or device for performing a particular action, as cutting, grinding, etc.; the tool or device itself. Frequently with preceding modifying word.cutter-, grooving-, micrometer, shower head, etc.: see the first element.

1785   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 75 448   The division answering to the index on the head of the micrometer was carefully noted.
1856   Jrnl. Franklin Inst. 3rd Ser. 31 282   The rotating head of the machine..had but a single cutter to each moulding, and the dividing saw tooth.
1874   Manufacturer & Builder Nov. 246/1   Matchers, with two driving-pulleys, upper and lower feed-rolls, with tonguing and grooving heads.
1949   Our Industry (Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.) (ed. 2) ii. 36   The hole is drilled by the rotating action of a cutting head.
1951   F. Whiteley Gear Manuf.: Bk. 3 ii. 23   A spiral milling attachment or universal milling head is also necessary to obtain the required angular movement of the cutter.
1991   Mech. Engin. Sept. 28/1   Model E3W2 consists of a light source, a sensing head, and a compact controller.

1785—1991(Hide quotations)


 d. The forward end of a shell, torpedo, or similar projectile; the part of a missile containing the explosive or otherwise harmful material. Cf. warhead n. at war n.1 Compounds 4.

1853   Mech. Mag. 12 Feb. 123   The inventor has improved upon it by extending the cavity a towards the nipple c, into the head of the shell.
1898   F. T. Jane Torpedo 19   The explosive head (war head)..is only fitted when the torpedo is to be used in earnest: for practice, a collapsible head is fitted.
1900   Brit. Med. Jrnl. 12 May 1156   With regard to the head of the bullet, the..type which offers..least resistance is that known as ogival.
1917   Pop. Mech. July 82/1   The head of the projectile continues in advance, followed by the diaphragm, powder tube, etc., and the spread of scattering shrapnel.
1982   Pop. Sci. Oct. 78/1   A sensor in the head of the missile detects laser light reflected off the target.
2012   DNA (Nexis) 23 June   The victims are understood to have picked up the unexploded missile head and were playing with it when it exploded.

1853—2012(Hide quotations)


 e. The flammable mass forming the tip of a match; = match-head n. at match n.2 Compounds 2.

1856   Patent 10 Oct. in Repertory Patent Inventions (1857) 29 332   The use of flour paste to cause the materials of which the head of the match is composed to adhere to the splint of wood.
1900   Weekly Underwriter 16 June 424/2   Matches of this type readily ignite when the heads are picked with the point of a knife.
1937   Pop. Mech. Dec. (Advertising section) 38/1   A newly patented match package has an inner flap which covers the heads of the matches.
1978   R. H. Stone & D. W. H. Tripp Chemistry (ed. 2) iv. 44   The original substances, both in the head of the match and on the side of the box, contain potential energy in chemical form.
2003   E. B. Basilici Legacy of Hero v. 24   He..fumbled a match out of the box on the shelf. He scraped the head against the iron stove and cupped the light.

1856—2003(Hide quotations)


 (a) In playing or making a gramophone record: a component for converting the physical motion of a stylus into variations in an electrical signal, and vice versa; spec. such a component mounted at the end of a record player's pickup arm.

1931   Pop. Sci. Feb. 139/1   The weight of the pick-up head you are using.
1962   L. Deighton Ipcress File xxvii. 172   He laid a huge shiny L.P. on the..turntable and delicately applied the diamond head.
1973   Daily Tel. 12 Oct. (Colour Suppl.) 29/2   The recording head that drives the cutting stylus.
2010   W. Newton Mistress of Abha (2011) 71   As I entered he lifted the head off the record.

1931—2010(Hide quotations)


 (b) In an audio, video, or computer system: a component for converting variations in an electrical signal into variations in magnetization or some other property, and vice versa, allowing recording to or reading from a storage medium. Frequently with preceding modifying word.erase, record, tape head, etc.: see the first element.

1948   C. Chu in Theory & Techniques Design Electronic Digital Computers III. xxvii. 6   The dimensions of the elementary magnets recorded on the medium..also depend on the crosswise length of the gap of the head.
1964   F. L. Westwater Electronic Computers (ed. 2) iv. 68   Each track must have its read/write head.
1983   Listener 18 Aug. 34/3   Now you can get a music centre with two audio-cassette heads to facilitate the copying of cassettes as well as discs.
2003   Build Perfect PC (Maximum PC) 55   There are two separate heads in a hard drive head assembly for reading and writing data.

1948—2003(Hide quotations)


 17. In general use: the topmost part of something; the top. Frequently opposed to foot.With reference either to a component or portion of an object, or to a position at or near its uppermost point.

OE (Northumbrian)   Lindisf. Gospels: Luke xvi. 17   Facilius est autem caelum et terram praeterire quam de lege unum apicem cadere : eaðor is uutedlice þæt heofon & þæt eorðo þætte foregeleore ðon of æ an merce uel stæfes heafud gefalla.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 16577 (MED)   Apon þe hefd o þis rode, ouer-thwart was don a brede.
1535   Bible (Coverdale) 1 Kings x. 19   Ye heade of the seate was rounde behynde.
1543   R. Record Ground of Artes ii. sig. T.iiiiv   30 is represented by the ioynynge together of ye headdes of the foremost fynger and the thombe.
1630   Proclam. Charles I New Buildings London 16 July 4   The Iambes, Heads and soyles of the Windowes shall be of Bricke.
1631   J. Rous Diary (1856) 60   [She] fell..at the head of a payre of staires.
1659   T. Willsford Architectonice 30   A post with a turn'd or carv'd head.
1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. 115/1   Swash Letters, are Italick Capitals, which have generally long dashing squanging stroaks in them, either at the head or foot.
1708   Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 26 71   A well polish'd Piece of Amber..which was the Head of my Cane.
1711   W. Sutherland Ship-builders Assistant 114   The upper Part is called the Head of the Sail.
1721   N. Bailey Universal Etymol. Eng. Dict. at Bowl   A round space at the Head of the Mast for the Men to stand in.
1742   J. Martyn & E. Chambers tr. Philos. Hist. & Mem. Royal Acad. Sci. Paris III. 24   That the whole force [of the rammer]..may fall on the head of the pile which is to be driven.
1794   Repertory of Arts 1 233   Carried round upon trucks, like the head of a windmill.
1827   J. F. Cooper Red Rover II. ii. 53   Wilder was standing on the head of the capstan.
1886   S. Baring-Gould Court Royal II. xxxii. 181   Captain Otley..put the silver head of his cane to his mouth.
1900   Orig. Papers Norfolk & Norwich Archæol. Soc. 14 117   The head of the crosier, which is of oak, has been preserved as a relic.
1951   Rotarian May 58/2   I was able to make small lightning by holding the ball close to the head of the machine.
1974   S. King Carrie (1975) 12   She..had gone to the head of the stairs.
1995   M. Lawrence et al. Which? Guide Home Safety & Security ii. 97   The bolt passes into a hole in the head and sill of the door frame.
2003   J. R. Stilgoe Lifeboat ix. 218   He slid the tiller from the head of the rudder.

OE—2003(Hide quotations)


 a. The end of a bed, grave, etc., at which a person's head lies. Opposed to foot. Cf. bed-head n. 2, headboard n. 2.In quot. OE   apparently in plural (see etymological note).

OE   West Saxon Gospels: John (Corpus Cambr.) xx. 11   Heo..geseah twegen englas sittan..anne æt þam heafdon & oðerne æt þam fotum þær ðæs Hælendes lic aled wæs.
a1400  (a1325)    Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) l. 17288 + 219 (MED)   Þat one at þe fote of þe graf, þat other at the hede.
c1405  (c1387–95)    Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. (Hengwrt) (2003) l. 295   For hym was leuere haue at his beddes heed Twenty bookes.
?c1430  (c1400)    Rule St. Francis (Corpus Cambr.) in F. D. Matthew Eng. Wks. Wyclif (1880) 49   Vndir here beddis hed.
a1500  (a1415)    J. Mirk Festial (Gough) (1905) 14   When he was buryet, at þe hed of þe tombe sprong a well of oyle.
1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry IV f. xxxiiv   He caused his crowne to be set on the pillowe at his beddes heade.
1622   J. Mabbe tr. M. Alemán Rogue i. 232   The Vrinall..stood at his beds head.
1712   Swift Jrnl. to Stella 9 Jan. (1948) II. 461   I hide my purse in my thread stocking between the bed's head and the wainscot.
1759   Universal Mag. Oct. 172/1   The survivor plants a rose-tree at the head of the deceased's grave.
1851   H. R. Schoolcraft Hist. & Statist. Information Indian Tribes U.S. I. 356   At the head of the grave a tabular piece of cedar, or other wood..is set.
1871   Daily News 18 Mar. 5/6   She stands fast by the head of the stretcher, while the rest give ground at the mandate of the surgeon.
1917   A. G. Empey Over Top 314   Two pieces of wood in the form of a cross placed at the head of a Tommy's grave.
1995   J. L. Singman & W. McLean Daily Life Chaucer's Eng. v. 87   Across the head of the bed was a long bolster..covered with a headsheet of linen.

OE—1995(Hide quotations)


 b. The position at a table (usually at one end) occupied by the person presiding over a meal or other event, or by the person regarded as most honoured or important. Also (with no reference to the status of the occupant): the position at the end of a table. Cf. senses 25a, 35. See also table head n. at table n. Compounds 1a(a).

a1500  (?c1450)    Merlin xx. 322 (MED)   The thre kynges and Merlin satte to-geder at the hede of the deyse.
1604   J. Fraser Offer maid to Gentilman of Qualitie 176   We perceaued an honest man..sitting at the head of the table.
1656   P. Heylyn Extraneus Vapulans 340   [He] placed him at the head of the board, above all the Ministers.
1745   E. Haywood Female Spectator III. 32   Tho' Eudosia kept her Place at the Head of the Table, yet nothing was served up to it but what was ordered by Laconia.
1786   F. Burney Diary 17 July (1842) III. 14   I was offered the seat..at the head of the table.
1813   Ann. Reg. 52   The Duke of York gave the toast; it was announced from the head of the table by a flourish of trumpets.
1877   M. Leathes Manor House Stories in Girls of Bredon ii. 201   The four little ones were ranged round the table with Susan at the head.
1928   P. O'Donnell Islanders v. 32   He could make out Susan at the head of the table winding a cut of yarn.
1951   S. H. Bell December Bride ii. xii. 171   The young Andrew sat at the head of the table in his grandfather's great rope-bottomed chair.
2000   H. Simpson Hey Yeah Right (2001) 126   There was William at the head, well into the next bottle, blearily inaccessible.
2007   M. Richards Growing Wild on Exmoor 19   During her long visits, my mother would give up to her mother-in-law the place she shared with my father at the head of the table.

a1500—2007(Hide quotations)

 19. The upper or principal extremity of various things, esp. when projecting, distinct, removable, or of some special shape.

 a. The pus-filled portion of an abscess, boil, or spot; the highest and thinnest point of this, at which it is likely to burst and discharge its contents. Also in figurative contexts (cf. sense 53).Frequently in to bring to a head (see Phrases 4b), to come to a head (see Phrases 4c).Cf. blackhead n.2 2, whitehead n.1 5.

lOE   Metrical Charm: Against Wen (Royal 4 A.xiv) 5   Wenne..þu scealt..to þan nihgan berhge, þer þu hauest, ermig, enne broþer. He þe sceal legge leaf et heafde.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) I. vii. lix. 418   In þe hed of þe posteme brediþ a whelke oþir a bleyne.
?a1425   tr. Guy de Chauliac Grande Chirurgie (N.Y. Acad. Med.) f. 22v   When forsoþ þu seest som liȝtnez & cesyng of akyng..& þat þe heued is sharped..þan wite þat þer is sanie or quitour.
1538   T. Elyot Dict. sig. C.iiiv/1   Caput facere, to gather a soore to a heed.
1611   R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues   Aboutir, to wax ripe, or draw to a head, as an impostume.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics iii, in tr. Virgil Wks. 117   To launch the Sore: And cut the Head.
1725   R. Bradley Chomel's Dictionaire Œconomique   Abouting, a term used by the French Gardiners to denote that the Trees are budded; as it signifies, in regard to Animals, the making a kind of a Head or Abscess.
1896   New Rev. Dec. 695   The essence of fact..never lay in the displacement of an arrow-point; no, nor in the head of a boil.
1948   N. Cassady Let. 23 July (2005) 87   The carbuncle bursts, the boil, reaching a head, pulsates its grey-fear fluid outward and all that remains is the sac scar.
2005   D. B. Jacoby et al. Encycl. Family Health (ed. 3) 256/1 (table)    Don't squeeze a boil before the head has formed.

lOE—2005(Hide quotations)


 b. The rounded, knobbed, or flattened end of a pin, nail, screw, or bolt, opposite to the point.to hit the nail on the head: see nail n. Phrases 1b; how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: see angel n. Additions.

c1300   St. Francis (Laud) l. 396 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 65 (MED)   Þe nailes weren blake i-nouȝ, þe hauedene rounde and grete.
c1392   Equatorie of Planetis 26   Set the fix point of thy compas..in the hed of the nail.
a1472   in J. J. Wilkinson Receipts & Expenses Bodmin Church (1875) 18 (MED)   Item for nailis with v strok hedes ij s.
1535   in H. M. Paton Accts. Masters of Wks. (1957) I. 127   iic xlviii of gret tynnit nalis with schorne hedis.
1542–3   Act 34 & 35 Hen. VIII c. 6   Pinnes..such as..haue the heads soudered fast to the shanke.
1644   J. Winthrop Hist. New Eng. (1826) (modernized text) II. 195   It struck against the head of a bolt in the cut-water of the Dartmouth ship, and went no further.
1679   J. Moxon Mech. Exercises I. ix. 163   That the Head of the Rivet be on the outside.
1733   J. Tull Horse-hoing Husbandry xxii. 153   This Holding-Screw has a pretty broad Head.
1774   O. Goldsmith Hist. Earth VII. 153   Little protuberances..as large as a pin's head.
1826   Rep. Patented Inventions Sept. 184   A pinion is fixed on the head of the screw, which turns round a toothed wheel.
1879   W. Thomson & P. G. Tait Treat. Nat. Philos. (new ed.) I: Pt. i. §424   Measured by means of a divided head fixed perpendicularly to the screw at one end.
1909   Proc. Royal Soc. Queensland 22 6   The travellers were compelled to cross very stony basalt country, which..wrenched the heads off the horse-shoe nails.
1997   Pract. Householder Oct. 36/2   Drill a pilot hole for the screw thread..and add a countersink for the head if you're using a countersunk screw.
2007   C. Gloman & R. Napoli Scenic Design & Lighting Techniques iii. 84   Finish hammers..have a claw-shaped peen to grab the head of an errant nail and yank it out.

c1300—2007(Hide quotations)


c. The nipple of a breast. Obsolete.

a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) II. xix. lxiii. 1325   Some women haue mylk oonliche in þe heed [L. cono] of þe tete.
a1425   Medulla Gram. (Stonyhurst) f. 47v   Papilla, an hed of a pappe.
1615   H. Crooke Μικροκοσμογραϕια 710   When an Infant is layde to the breast, hee suddenly with a kinde of Naturall force laps his tongue about the head of the breast.
1672   G. Sinclair Hydrostaticks 179   The Air that guardeth the head of the Pap is removed, and so the Air, that presseth the parts about, and without, squeezes out the milk.

a1398—1672(Hide quotations)


 d. The rounded part forming the end of the penis; the glans. In later use also: the corresponding part of the clitoris.

a1400   tr. Lanfranc Sci. Cirurgie (Ashm.) (1894) 19 (MED)   Ficus, þat is superfluyte þat growen vp on þe skyn of þe pintils hede wiþoute.
a1593   Marlowe tr. Ovid Elegies in J. Davies & Marlowe Epigr. & Elegies (c1599) sig. G   She..vsde all speech that might prouoke and stirre, Yet..It mocked me, hung downe the head and sunke.
1693   T. Urquhart & P. A. Motteux tr. Rabelais 3rd Bk. Wks. xviii. 151   They [sc. women] did begin to flay the Man..at that Member;..yet have they not of that small part alone flayed any more till this hour but the Head.
1756   Mem. Oxf. Scholar 99   [My] fingers sought the inflamed head of my exercised member.
1801   R. Hooper Compend. Med. Dict. (ed. 2) at Penis   It [sc. the penis] is divided by anatomists into the root, body, and head.
1880   ‘Lady Pokingham’ in Pearl Apr. 123   I took that long prick in my hands,..whilst I just titillated the ruby head with my tongue.
1904   Lustful Mem. Young & Passionated Girl 39   He got on top of her then placed the head of his champion between the lips of her monkey.
1975   B. Benderson Kyle v. 89   Holding my cock in his fist, he rubbed the head around his asshole.
1990   J. M. Reinisch & R. Beasley Kinsey Instit. New Rep. Sex (1991) ii. 29   Contrary to popular myth, the head of the clitoris is not some type of ‘magic button’ for all women.
2011   Men's Health Big Bk. of Sex ii. 19/2   The head is covered by a sheath of skin called the foreskin.

a1400—2011(Hide quotations)


 e. Anatomy. The end of a muscle that remains relatively stationary when the muscle contracts; (also) each of two or more parts into which this end of certain muscles is divided; = origin n. 2b. Cf. tail n.1 2e.

?a1425   tr. Guy de Chauliac Grande Chirurgie (N.Y. Acad. Med.) f. 52 (MED)   Wondez..made in þe heuedez [L. capitibus] of þe musculez wher þe neruez beþ ynoȝ nakened..ar mortale.
1597   P. Lowe Whole Course Chirurg. vi. iv. sig. T3   Contusion happeneth in the fleshie partes, and attrition is done in the head and ende of the muscles.
1694   W. Salmon tr. Y. van Diemerbroeck Anat. Human Bodies (new ed.) i. 116/2   These two Kidneys are seated behind the Ventricle and Guts,..at the head of the Psoa Muscle.
1750   S. Sharp Crit. Enq. Surg. 56   In both sexes it lies between the two anterior Heads of the Triceps Femoris.
1877   I. Rosenthal Gen. Physiol. Muscles & Nerves (1881) 13   The ends are spoken of as the head and tail, of the muscle.
1922   Anat. Rec. 23 219   The muscle is much larger than in the left foot, especially its transverse head.
2003   Muscle & Fitness Jan. 35/2   To fully develop and attain bolder shoulders, you must learn the art and science of training the three main heads of the deltoid muscles.

?a1425—2003(Hide quotations)


 f. Chemistry. In an alembic: the upper part or cover of the cucurbit (cucurbit n.1 1), where the vapour condenses to a liquid; the part of any apparatus for distillation where condensation occurs. See also still-head n.2

a1475   Bk. Quinte Essence 4   A distillatorie of glas..wiþ an hoole a-boue in þe heed, where þe watir schal be putt yn.
1594   H. Plat Diuers Chimicall Concl. Distillation 3 in Jewell House   Let the bucket, or cooler in the head containe as much more colde water, as our ordinarie Limbecks doe.
1660   R. Boyle New Exper. Physico-mechanicall xxii. 176   We see in the Heads of Stills..how quickly such vapors are even by a very little cold recondensed into Water.
1730   P. Shaw tr. G. E. Stahl Philos. Princ. Universal Chem. 153   The Operation..is most commodiously perform'd in an Iron Cucurbit, with an alembic-head, and Pipe.
1758   A. Reid tr. P. J. Macquer Elements Theory & Pract. Chym. I. ii. §́1. 230   Fill therewith a crucible..heat it till it melts: then set it on fire, and when its whole surface is lighted place it under a large glass head.
1806   W. Henry Epitome Chem. (ed. 4) i. i. 7   An alembic..consists of two parts; the body..and the head.
1827   J. Story Public & Gen. Statutes Congr. U.S.A. III. 1570   Twenty-three cents for each gallon of the capacity of every such still, including the head thereof.
1920   Sci. Monthly Sept. 207   The vapors are condensed in the head of the alembic.
1949   G. R. Fessenden Preserv. Agric. Specimens in Plastics ii. 33   This apparatus should include a three-neck flask.., a short vertical column packed with glass beads, and distilling head.
1960   F. G. Mann & B. C. Saunders Pract. Org. Chem. (ed. 4) ii. 73   Use a ground-glass flask..with a distillation-head.
2009   B. Owens & A. Dikty Art Distilling Whiskey ii. 34 (caption)    Artisan pot still: the shape of the helmet ‘head’ of the still influences the flavor of the distillate.

a1475—2009(Hide quotations)


 g. The (distinct) upper part of a pillar or column; the capital (capital n.1 1). See also pillar head n. at pillar n. Compounds 2.

a1500   Gloss. John of Garland in T. Wright Vocabularies (1857) 137 (MED)   Epistilium, the hede of the pyler.
1539   Bible (Great) 2 Chron. iii. f. lxxxvi/2   He made chaynes of wrethen worke for the quere, and put them on the heedes of the pyllers.
1552   R. Huloet Abcedarium Anglico Latinum   Heade or chapiter of a pyller.
1560   Bible (Geneva) Exod. xxvii. 11   The heades of ye pillers and the filets shalbe siluer.
1611   E. Aston tr. J. Boemus Manners, Lawes, & Customes ii. i. 58   The porches and galleries also bee vnderpropped with great pillars, the heads whereof are siluer and gold.
1651   P. Armin tr. F. Glisson et al. Treat. Rickets xiii. 122   If therfore you shal fasten in a wedge on the right side between the stones AB through the line FD, the Head of the Pillar; Namely, the stone A will of necessity be bended towards D.
1778   G. Baretti Dict. Spanish & Eng. (ed. 2) at Carton   The scroll on the head of the column of the Ionic order.
1818   M. Vasi New Picture Rome v. 269   Three thick fluted marble pillars, with Corinthian heads.
1907   Country Life 30 Nov. 783/2   This hall of plain panels, with the Corinthian heads of its pilasters for all ornament.
2003   R. Taylor How to read Church 30   Doric columns tend to be plain, with simple rounded heads, or capitals.

a1500—2003(Hide quotations)


 h. The membrane or piece of skin stretched over a drum, forming the surface struck by the drumsticks or hands; = drumhead n. 1a.

1567   A. Golding tr. Ovid Metamorphosis (new ed.) xii. f. 155   As a man should pat Small stones vppon a dromslets head [L. tympana].
1607   J. Marston What you Will iv. sig. F2   His face lookes like the head of a taber.
1622   tr. Iournall Siege Berghen-up-Zoome 35   Three Spaniards playing at Dice vpon the head of a Drumme.
1691   J. Ray Wisdom of God 185   A Membrane..stretched like the head of a Drum.
1752   Masquerade No. 3. 91   I..caper'd like a parch'd-pea upon the head of a kettle-drum.
1841   Manch. Times 24 July   One of the horses, plunging at the crowd, sent its fore-feet into the head of our big drum.
1929   E. A. Powell Last Home of Myst. x. 197   There are huge bowl-shaped drums, as high as a man, with heads of tightly stretched leather.
1996   G. Nicholls in P. Trynka Rock Hardware 92/1   1960s session giant Hal Blaine kept the calf skin head on his kick drum throughout most of his career.

1567—1996(Hide quotations)


 i. On a lute, violin, or similar stringed instrument: the part above the neck (neck n.1 6c), on which the tuning pegs are mounted.In some instruments, notably viols, this may be carved in the likeness of a (sometimes grotesque) human head.

1595   A. Copley Wits Fittes & Fancies vi. 183   One seeing an other thrust out his head..said, it was like the head of a Gittern.
1603   T. Robinson Schoole of Musicke sig. Bij   The first string or Treble, stopped in the first fret, by the head of the Lute with the forefinger.
1611   R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues   Ioug,..the head of a Lute, Violl, etc.
1682   T. Shadwell Lancashire-witches ii. 22   Thy Face, I never saw so deform'd a thing on the head of an old Lyra violl.
1748   T. Smollett Roderick Random I. xix. 160   Grinning like the head of a bass viol.
1784   European Mag. & London Rev. Mar. 180/2   This constant grin is no more the indication of true mirth in the Frenchman, than it is in the head of a bass viol.
1836   Rep. Patent Inventions Sept. 175   Giving to the head of the Spanish guitar the lyre form..in place of the common head heretofore used.
1879   G. Grove Dict. Music I. 524/2   Its [sc. a fingerboard's] width is about 1 inch nearest to the head of the violin and 1¾ inch at the bridge-end.
1905   Sunset Mag. May 77/2   She..designed the scroll of the violin head.
1966   A. C. Baines European & Amer. Musical Instruments 46   The head is of guitar type, with rear pegs.
2002   Fine Woodworking Mar. 84 (caption)    The fingerboard and turned head [of the mandolin] are inlaid with gold mother-of-pearl.

1595—2002(Hide quotations)


 j. Astronomy. The part of a comet comprising the nucleus and coma (coma n.2 2), as distinguished from the tail; (also) the nucleus itself.

1619   J. Bainbridge Astron. Descr. Late Comet 10   That the Comets taile is nothing else but an irradiation of the Sunne through the pellucide head of the Comet.
1675   E. Sherburne in tr. M. Manilius Sphere App. 192   He likewise conceives the Head of a Comet to consist of divers minute Bodies Homogenial.
1728   E. Chambers Cycl. at Comet   Their Tail is a very thin, slender Vapour, emitted by the Head, or Nucleus of the Comet.
1771   Philos. Trans. 1770 (Royal Soc.) 60 132   Its tail passed directly over ε Orionis and might be traced about as far beyond it, as that star was from the head of the comet.
1868   J. N. Lockyer Elem. Lessons Astron. §291   The brighter part of the comet is called the head, or coma, and sometimes the head contains a brighter portion still, called the nucleus.
1898   Appleton's Pop. Sci. Monthly Apr. 8572   Cassini's observation was of a comet, the head of which was not visible to him.
1929   Pop. Sci. Sept. 49/1   Jets of gas are shot from the comet's head and go to form the tail.
2011   T. Koupelis Quest Solar Syst. x. 288   The tail of a comet does not necessarily follow the head through space.

1619—2011(Hide quotations)


k. A swollen end or bulb at one end of a glass tube. Cf. bolt-head n. 2. Obsolete.

1664   H. Power Exper. Philos. ii. 120   Take a long Tube, with a Head like a Weather-Glass, onely open at both ends.
1665   R. Hooke Micrographia Pref. sig. Cv   I prepare a pretty capaceous Bolt-head..with a small stem about two foot and a half long..and then fit the whole..that almost half the head..may lye buried in a concave Hemisphere cut into the Board.

1664—1665(Hide quotations)


 l. The thick end of a chisel or wedge, opposite the edge or point.

1678   J. Moxon Mech. Exercises I. ii. 17   With the Hand Hammer in your right hand strike upon the head of the cold Chissel.
1721   R. Wodrow Hist. Sufferings Church of Scotl. I. ii. xiii. 513   He gave Nine Strokes upon the Head of the Wedge.
1734   J. T. Desaguliers Course Exper. Philos. I. iii. 110   Experience shews, that a Blow upon the Head of a Wedge, makes it enter easily into a hard Body.
1842   Chambers's Information for People (new ed.) II. 24   Here the wedge is seen to taper from a thick end or head..to a thin edge or point.
1890   Jrnl. Amer. Med. Assoc. 13 Sept. 402/2   The hammer..slipped from the head of the chisel, and he received a sharp blow on the thumb of his left hand.
1916   Railway Rev. 27 May 762/1   Sledge blows on the head of the wedge serve to give the desired friction between the wedge and the yoke.
2008   R. Underhill Woodwright's Guide ii. 20   The intent is to keep the mallet face square to the chisel head at the end of the stroke.

1678—2008(Hide quotations)


 m. Music. In musical notation: that part of a note which determines its position on the stave, as distinct from the stem or tail.In modern notation the head is round or oval, whereas formerly it was often rectangular or diamond-shaped.

1724   W. Turner Sound Anatomiz'd 16   The Second [Note] is called a Crotchet; marked like the Minim with the Head filled up.
1793   Trans. Soc. Arts (ed. 2) 5 125   The ledger or occasional lines, drawn through the heads of the notes.
1803   A. Gunn Introd. Music 24   The Crotchet is a black head with a stem.
1876   J. Troutbeck & R. F. Dale Music Primer for Schools (ed. 2) i. 8   Quaver ♪, a note with a close or black head, and a stem with one hook.
1914   K. W. Gehrkens Music Notation & Terminol. v. 18   A tie is a curved line connecting the heads of two notes that call for the same tone.
1960   E. Bodky Interpr. Bach's Keyboard Wks. viii. 245   The musical line is organized in such a way that a line drawn through the heads of the notes ascends and then descends.
2009   H. Bauer Young People's Guide Classical Music ii. 17   Staccato is normally indicated..by placing a small dot above or below the head of the note, on the opposite side from the stem.

1724—2009(Hide quotations)


 n. A (folding) cover or canopy for a carriage or (in later use) motor vehicle, usually one which forms a permanent part of the vehicle rather than being detachable. Cf. drop-head n. (b) at drop- comb. form 2.

1768   Gazetteer & New Daily Advertiser 5 Mar. (advt.)    A neat exceeding good crane-neck phaeton, with a head and harness for two horses.
1791   J. Purbeck William Thornborough II. vii. 103   He threw back the head of the phaeton, which had been put up to keep him from the rain.
1851   Voy. to Mauritius v. 174   A ‘bogy’—a gig with a head but no back.
1860   Mrs. H. Wood East Lynne in New Monthly Mag. July 283   The head was down to-day, but it was found convenient in rainy weather.
1904   A. B. F. Young Compl. Motorist (ed. 2) iv. Plate facing p. 103   Lanchester touring car, with detachable brougham head.
1955   U.S. Patent 2,707,129   An open-type motor-car body of the kind having a head, with a flexible covering, which can be folded to lie in a stowage compartment.
1987   Carriage Driving Spring 25/4   Both the front and rear heads (or hoods) fold right down, enabling the occupants to be seen clearly.

1768—1987(Hide quotations)


 o. Bookbinding. The upper edge of a book or page. Cf. tail n.1 4k, fore-edge n.; cf. also earlier headband n. 2.

1818   H. Parry Art of Bookbinding 2   Kettle-stitch, the stitch at head and foot of the book, independent of the bands, to tack or fasten the sheets together.
1835   ‘J. A. Arnett’ Bibliopegia 26   The book is now taken between the hands and well beaten up at the back and head on a smooth board, to bring the sheets level and square.
1876   Encycl. Brit. IV. 43/1   The object of the binder in this operation is to make every page of uniform size, presenting a smooth and equal ‘head’, ‘tail’, and ‘fore-edge’.
1930   Godfrey's Catal. No. 134. 26/1   Folio, old sheep (roughly repaired at head and heel).
2011   J. Stein Adventures in Bookbinding 24   Stand the text block on its fore edge with the head facing you.

1818—2011(Hide quotations)


 p. On the bow of a stringed instrument: that part of the tip or point (point n.1 19d) which separates the hair from the stick. Also occasionally: the point itself.

?1820   J. Paine Treat. Violin i. 10   What part of the bow shall I begin from? Within two inches of the head of the bow.
1848   J. Bishop tr. J. A. Otto Treat. Violin App. 50   The bow consists of the stick, into the upper part of which, called the head, one end of the hair is fastened.
1879   G. Grove Dict. Music I. 265/1   The hair..is inserted in the head..and the nut of the bow.
1965   D. Bowden Hist. Violin Playing 46   This difficulty was settled..by making a ‘head’ which held the hair away from the bow stick at the point.
1975   New Scientist 10 July 105/2   The maximum weakness is..the point or head of the bow.
2008   E. Klein Compl. Idiot's Guide to Playing Fiddle i. 52   It's an inexpensive fix that will save the head of the bow.

?1820—2008(Hide quotations)


 q. Mechanics. A plate or structure closing the end of a cylinder in an engine; spec. (in an internal combustion engine) a piece that sits on top of some or all of the cylinders, against which the pistons compress their contents for combustion. See also cylinder head n. at cylinder n. Compounds 2a.

1824   Literary Gaz. 31 July 491/2   The pressure of the air on the piston-head again forces it down on the head of the cylinder.
1829   Amer. Jrnl. Sci. 16 317   Heads are put upon the outer cylinder, secured to it by flanches.
1904   A. B. F. Young Compl. Motorist iv. 111   The body of the cylinder proper is a cast-iron liner... The head—containing the vertical valves and ignition-plug—is a separate casting.
1947   Princ. Automotive Vehicles (U.S. Dept. Army) iv. 33   Communicating passages permit the coolant to circulate around the cylinders and through the head.
1965   P. H. Smith High-speed Two-stroke Petrol Engine xiii. 258   On air-cooled engines, non-detachable heads are generally confined..to the simplest and cheapest industrial engines.
2006   SuperBike June 38/1   The surface for the cam cover and the head surface itself are..counter-bored for the valve guides and seats.

1824—2006(Hide quotations)


 a. An accumulation of foam or froth on the top of certain drinks, esp. beer.

1545   R. Ascham Toxophilus ii. f. 8   Newe ale..wil sone lease his pith, and his head afore he be longe drawen on.
1603   S. Harsnett Declar. Popish Impostures xxi. 34   The ale in the fat would neuer haue good head.
1664   N. Henshaw Aero-Chalinos i. 10   The small Particles of air..gently ascend to the top of the Mass, where they make that frothy head or scum observable in Sider, Wine, Beer, and other liquors.
1707   J. Mortimer Whole Art Husbandry (1708) i. 574   Stirring of it twice a day, and beating down the Head or Yeast into it.
1772   J. Adams tr. A. de Ulloa Voy. S. Amer. (ed. 3) I. 50   Palm-wine..bears a greater head than beer, and is of a very inebriating quality.
1810   B. Silliman Jrnl. Trav. II. lxix. 218   The porter drinkers of London reject the liquor unless it foams, or has a head, as they call it.
1886   Pall Mall Gaz. 13 Sept. 10/2   The head or foam [on ginger-beer] is produced either by white of egg or by quillaia bark.
1909   Amer. Bottler 15 Aug. 27/2   Swats..had the color of mild ale, with a fine creamy head, a good ‘body’ and quite a nice aroma.
1951   J. R. Carlson Cairo to Damascus xix. 348   He poured some [coffee] in one demi-tasse cup, then in another, evenly distributing the frothy head.
1997   Scotsman (Nexis) 11 Mar. 2   The party will change a law that at present allows a ‘reasonable head’ to form part of a pint.
2006   Daily Tel. 3 May 15/1   Glycol alginate, added to help maintain a beer's head, even after months on a shelf.

1545—2006(Hide quotations)


 b. The cream which accumulates on the top of milk. Cf. top of the milk n. at top n.1 Compounds 3a. Now rare.

1684   S. Pordage tr. T. Willis Of Feavers in Pract. Physick (rev. ed.) i. 51   The flowering or head of the Milk [L. flori lactis].
1775   J. Ash New Dict. Eng. Lang.   Cream, the head of milk, the oily part of milk.
1796   Monthly Mag. 2 Suppl. 935/2   Loaronon, cheese, head of milk.
1848   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 9 ii. 480   The extent of surface in the large milk-pans produces a large ‘head’ of cream.
1888   F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk. (at cited word)   In reply to an application for milk in the forenoon, a farmer's wife's usual reply is—I ont break my head vor nobody—meaning that now the head or cream has begun to rise, I will not disturb it.
1917   Jrnl. Dairy Sci. 1 297   The layer of the cream in the pan is crinkled, and appears as a ‘blanket’ or ‘head’ of cream on the surface of the milk.
1988   L. R. Lind tr. G. Zerbi Gerontocomia xxvii. 186   That part of milk which the shepherds call the head of the milk..the famous Latin physicians call cream.

1684—1988(Hide quotations)

 ** The front or leading part or end of something.

 a. Originally: a ship's figurehead. Later also: those components of a ship which are fitted forward of the stem, or of the main body of the bows, regarded collectively, including the figurehead, rails, and the knee of the head (see knee n. 7a). Now hist.

OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Tiber. B.iv) anno 1063   Wearþ Griffin kync ofslangen [read ofslagen]..& man brohte his eafod to Harolde eorle, & Harold hit þam kynge brohte, & his scipes heafod & þa bone þermid [L. caputque nauis ipsius cum ornatura].
1653   in C. T. Atkinson Lett. & Papers First Dutch War (1912) V. 293   The Assurance hath lost her head and bowsprit. She is now upon the ground tallowing and the head building.
1676   London Gaz. No. 1130/4   A square stern'd Sloop with a Deck, a small Head, and the Figure of a Cat thereon.
1703   London Gaz. No. 3968/1   The Privateer..carried away her Head and Boltsprit.
1711   W. Sutherland Ship-builders Assistant 161   Head of a Ship, that part which is fasten'd to the Bow or foremost part of the Ship without-board.
1804   A. Duncan Mariner's Chron. Pref. 19   A Head is an ornamental figure erected on the continuation of a ship's stem.
1850   J. Greenwood Sailor's Sea-bk. 123   Head..particularly applied to all the work fitted afore the stem, as the figure, the knee, rails, etc.
1867   W. H. Smyth & E. Belcher Sailor's Word-bk.   Head,..in a confined sense that part on each side of the stem outside the bows proper which is appropriated to the use of the sailors for wringing swabs, or any wet jobs.
1902   J. Hall Viking Tales 201   Something to merely illustrate Norse work; for instance, a carved ship's-head, or a copper shield, or a wrought door-nail.
1909   Rudder Sept. 186 (caption)    Half Moon [sc. a ship], showing the head and bowsprit.
1977   J. T. Noonan Antelope ii. 26   An hermaphrodite brig painted black,..no head, a bowsprit without elevation, sails which were old and patched.
2007   G. de L. Marshall Ships' Figureheads in Austral. 5   ‘Shield and scroll’ is a not uncommon designation for a ship's head on some registers.

OE—2007(Hide quotations)


 b. More generally: the front or front part of a ship, boat, or other vessel; the bows.Recorded earliest in boat-head n. at boat n.1 Compounds 2.

1485   in M. Oppenheim Naval Accts. & Inventories Henry VII (1896) 50   Sheves of Iren in the bote Hede.
1568   T. Hacket tr. A. Thevet New Found Worlde xxii. f. 35   Costing the Ile of S. Laurence, guiding the head of the ship to Weast or Southweast.
1627   J. Smith Sea Gram. ix. 41   Put the Helme a weather, and it will bring her head where her sterne is.
1697   Dryden tr. Virgil Æneis vi, in tr. Virgil Wks. 362   They turn their Heads to Sea; their Sterns to Land.
1795   Ld. Nelson in Dispatches & Lett. (1846) VII. p. xxx   We are getting on very fast with our caulking; our head is secured.
1836   M. Scott Cruise of Midge vi. 97   We were riding with our head up the river.
1849   G. Grote Hist. Greece V. ii. xxxviii. 24   They were moored by anchors head and stern.
1902   J. Masefield in Pall Mall Gaz. Apr. 530   Her masts were gone, 'n' afore you knowed She filled by the head 'n' down she goed.
1984   P. O'Brian Far Side of World (1992) iii. 91   Then, the ship's people being sickly, they turned her head south.
1996   Times 3 Feb. 23/8   The ship's head was paying off the whole time, making it extremely dangerous for the lifeboat.

1485—1996(Hide quotations)


 (a) Nautical. An on-board toilet, originally one situated in the bows. Also in plural in same sense.

1712   W. Rogers Cruising Voy. 34   He begg'd to go into the Head to ease himself.
1748   T. Smollett Roderick Random I. xxviii. 253   The madman..took an opportunity, while the centinel attended him at the head, to leap over-board.
1826   W. N. Glascock Naval Sketch-bk. II. 28   None o' your long-winded lawyers, like Paddy Quin the sweeper, or Collins the ‘captain o' the head’.
1886   Rep. Surgeon-General, U.S. Navy 48   We have the ship's ‘heads’ forward on both sides of the gun-deck.
1938   ‘C. S. Forester’ Ship of Line 21   You'll clean out the heads of this ship every day.
1958   W. King Stick & Stars 42   Each visit to the heads [in a submarine] entails an important sequence of valve operations.
2004   C. Montgomery Last Heathen 215   The floor was a slippery paste of oil, spit, crushed insects, and a disturbing slurry that seeped from the ship's head.

1712—2004(Hide quotations)


 (b) U.S. colloquial. A lavatory.

1920   War Expenditures: Hearings before Subcomm. No. 3 of Comm. Expenditures War Dept. (U.S. House of Representatives, 66th Congr., 1st & 2nd Sess., Serial 4) I. 104   You..called the sentry and asked him for what you wanted—if you wanted to go to the ‘head’, or anything.
1947   T. Williams Streetcar named Desire iii. 59   I'm going to the ‘head’. Deal me out.
1980   P. McHugh Search for Goodbye-to-Rains ix. 163   He had to go to the head pretty bad.
2001   R. Russo Empire Falls xxi. 332   When you spun off your stool to go to the head, you were liable to spill the beer of the man standing behind you.

1920—2001(Hide quotations)


 (a) The front of an army, procession, or the like; the vanguard.

c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1963) l. 4325   Þer com Iulius teon. forn aȝæien heore hæued [c1300 Otho heued].
a1450  (▸1408)    tr. Vegetius De Re Militari (Douce) (1988) f. 31v   And þis warde..is þe heed warde of þe legioun, and þis is þe firste warde þat is ordeyned as hede of al þe legioun when þe bataille schal begynne.
1489  (a1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (Adv.) ix. 615   Schyr Edwardis cumpany Set stoutly in ye heid agayne.
1588   E. Aggas tr. F. de La Noue Politicke & Mil. Disc. xviii. 201   The last ranckes..are sooner amazed then they that be at the head and in all the daunger.
1597   H. M. tr. J. Du Bec-Crispin Hist. Tamerlan 112   The Prince had not seene [him] in eight dayes, because he ledde the head of the armie.
1607   E. Grimeston tr. J. de Serres in tr. Gen. Inuentorie Hist. France ii. 700   The foure commaunders march euery one in the head of his troupe.
1676   tr. G. Guillet de Saint-Georges Acct. Voy. Athens iv. 396   At the head of the Procession were ten Trumpets, and as many Bag-pipes playing and sounding before him.
1709   J. Addison Tatler No. 100. 2/1   She had so ordered it, that Men of the greatest Genius and the strongest Sense were placed at the Head of the Column.
1796   Instr. & Regulations Cavalry 152   If gradual and inconsiderable changes of direction are to be made during the march of the column, the head will, on a moveable pivot, effect such change.
1838   Extra Globe (Washington, D.C.) 2 Aug. 304/1   At precisely half past ten o'clock, the head of the procession debouched from Pall-mall towards Charing-cross.
1863   A. W. Kinglake Invasion of Crimea I. xiv. 261   The head of the vast column of troops.
1908   Pacific Monthly Mar. 324/2   The herdsman who rides at the head of a straggling herd of cattle on the march.
1986   E. Amadi Estrangement v. 76   The head of the..procession turned right.
1996   N. Maraire Zenzele iv. 56   By the time we reached the hut, we were a full procession. At the head was Chipo.

c1275—1996(Hide quotations)


 (b) The front of a queue; the person, vehicle, etc., in this position. Also figurative.

1852   Manch. Examiner & Times 3 Mar. 2/1   The elector at the head of the queue, which is formed to prevent confusion, delivers the card which attests his identity.
1928   Boys' Life Nov. 12/1   The instructor sent the head of the line over the jump.
1950   Washington Post 29 July 8/8   Another truck came along and rammed into the back truck.., which in turn banged into the car at the head of the line.
1996   J. E. Harrigan & P. R. Neel Executive Architect iv. 106   We must be at the head of the line when we compete for contracts; that is, we want clients to come to us first.
2008   Northern Echo (Nexis) 17 Jan. 2   At the queue's head, among the radio microphones and reporters' notebooks, fans mixed shivers with soundbites.

1852—2008(Hide quotations)


 b. Chiefly Military. The front, outer, or projecting part of a fortification, encampment, etc.

1684   tr. J. Donneau de Visé Diary Siege of Luxembourg 36   [He] caused himself to be carried to the Head of the Trenches [Fr. la Teste de la Tranchée], that he might there be nearer at hand to give his Orders.
1694   E. D'Auvergne Hist. Campagne Spanish Netherlands 88   Our Cannon and Mortars began to play with more force from all our Batteries; that of St. Leonard fired perpendicular upon the Head of the Fort Picard.
1728   E. Chambers Cycl. (at cited word)   Head of the Camp, is the Front, or fore-most Part of the Ground, an Army is incamped on; or that which advances most towards the Campaign, Field, or the Enemy.
1780   Compl. Syst. Mil. Art at Retirade   After the first defence is ruined, and the besieged are obliged to abandon the head of the work, without quitting it entirely.
1839   Jrnl. Royal Geogr. Soc. 9 336   Taking possession of the village of Nizib, and the head of the camp, [they] opened a fire upon the line of fugitives and troops.
1901   H. P. B. Lynch Armenia I. i. 21   The point at which you pause is at the head of the fortification, beneath the soaring escarpment of the square tower.
1964   V. S. Naipaul Area of Darkness vii. 174   The silver rods which..were displayed in a lighted tent at the head of the camp.
2010   D. Hirst Beware of Small States v. 111   The hotels constituted the head of a Phalangist salient that projected deeply into Muslim West Beirut.

1684—2010(Hide quotations)


 a. The front part, or (in earlier use) the share-beam, of a plough; = plough-head n.   Cf. tail n.1 4d.Recorded earliest in plough-head n.

a1325   Gloss. W. de Bibbesworth (Arun.) (1857) 168 (MED)   Le chef e le penoun [glossed] the plou-heved[a1425 All Souls hede] and the foot.
?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 97v   A plugh hede, dentale.
1613   G. Markham Eng. Husbandman: 1st Pt. Former Pt. iv. sig. C2v   If your Plough-Irons forbeare and will not bite on the earth at all, then it is a signe that you hang too heauy on the Plough hales, raising the head of the Plough from the ground.
1756   T. Hale et al. Compl. Body Husbandry vi. xxviii. 293/2   The Length of the additional Coulters, particularly of the fourth, or that next the Head of the Plow, would be a great Inconvenience in this Machine.
1793   J. L. Buchanan Trav. W. Hebrides vi. 153   The head of this plough is four feet long, with an iron sock, and with a handle of six feet long.
1844   Loudon's Encycl. Agric. 391   The materials with which ploughs are constructed is, generally, wood for the beam and handles, cast iron for the head.
1890   Trans. Royal Sc. Arboricultural Soc. 12 192   The head of the plough is attached to the axle of two wooden wheels, whereby the depth of the furrow is regulated.
1902   H. A. Robertson & J. Fraser Erromanga vi. 117   The head of the plough, trailing after them, would sometimes bound right up in the air.
1978   A. Fenton Northern Isles xxxviii. 296   The thick, rear end curved downwards, with a mortice..for a piece of wood, the head of the plough, that held the sock.

a1325—1978(Hide quotations)

1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. iii. 93/2   The Single Head, hath one bow in the middle of the forepart of the tree. The Double Head side Saddle, is with two bows.
1796   Repertory of Arts 4 9   The near side head or horn, of a woman's saddle-tree, is made or constructed to move, fall, or drop down.
1850   S. C. Wayte Equestrian's Man. vi. 166   There are people who say no to the off head being cut off, as if in case a lady is nervous she cannot steady herself so well as when the head is left on.
1891   A. T. Fisher Through Stable xiii. 117   In some provincial, but nowadays in no well-made London saddles, the head of the saddle is cut back towards the seat.
1963   E. H. Edwards Saddlery xiv. 96   The head and gullet are strengthened with steel plates and there is also a steel reinforcement laid on to the underside of the tree from the head to the cantle.
1986   Your Horse Sept. 49/2   The saddle has a cut back head.
2005   C. Paolini Eldest (2007) 288   A series of broad ties on either side of the head of the saddle caught Eragon's attention.

1688—2005(Hide quotations)


c. On a bicycle or tricycle: the hollow tube enclosing the steering column; the head tube; = headpiece n. 8. See also Compounds 2c. Obsolete.

1881   Househ. Words 10 Sept. 396/1   The excessive ‘rake’ imposes a greatly additional strain upon the head, and renders the steering somewhat difficult.
1902   Captain 7 82/1   That going from the head to the crank bracket is made duplex.
1904   G. F. Goodchild & C. F. Tweney Technol. & Sci. Dict. 282/2   Head (Cycles), the socket or hollow tube through which the tube carrying the front fork runs.

1881—1904(Hide quotations)

 *** An end or terminal part of something, not necessarily uppermost or foremost in position or importance.

 24. Either of the flat ends of a barrel, cask, or similar container, esp. the one regarded as the top.Recorded earliest in barrel-head n. at barrel n. Compounds 2.

1390–1   in L. T. Smith Exped. Prussia & Holy Land Earl Derby (1894) 41   Hans Couper pro barelhedes et pro imposicione eorundem in dictos barellos, v scot.
a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) ii. l. 1212   He let devise..To sette a tonne..Wherof on hed was taken oute.
1428   in J. Raine Vol. Eng. Misc. N. Counties Eng. (1890) 2   He opend ye heued of ye other barell.
a1500   Brut (Rawl. B. 173) 453 (MED)   vj buttes, the which the hedes were smyt oute of.
1583   T. Stocker tr. Tragicall Hist. Ciuile Warres Lowe Countries iii. f. 84   Upon the head of which barrell was nayled a peece of paper written with these wordes.
1659   T. Willsford Scales of Comm. 159   The diameter at the bung 30, and at the head or either end 21 inches.
1719   Hist. Reg. No. 14 153   A crowned B shall be burnt on the Head of each Barrel.
1792   T. Forrest Voy. Calcutta 80   Dowling the planks together, as coopers do the parts that form the head of a cask.
1834   F. Marryat Pacha I. ii. 35   I was directed to take the head out of the cask.
1860   E. G. White Spiritual Gifts II. 47   Your theory of faith is as empty as a flour barrel with both heads out.
1951   R. S. Harper Lincoln & Press xxxi. 276   The head of the keg was knocked in and a train of powder poured to a point near the house.
2012   Gazette (Montreal) (Nexis) 7 Mar. f8   They start by breaking apart the barrel and removing the metal hoops, separating the heads and pulling apart the staves.

1390–1—2012(Hide quotations)


 a. An end of a room or building, esp. the end regarded as more important, prestigious, etc. Cf. sense 18b.In quot. 1420: one of the entrances to a mansion.

1420   in J. Raine Vol. Eng. Misc. N. Counties Eng. (1890) 16 (MED)   At the hall head to the kyrkward, the heirs..sall bryng furthe..thayre water into the foresayd gutter.
c1540  (?a1400)    Gest Historiale Destr. Troy (2002) f. 28v   At the tother hede of þe halle was..A wondurfull werke.
1685   G. Sinclair Satans Invisible World Discovered Postscript sig. ¶¶6   There being..a Window or shot at the head of the Room, that gave them light.
1703   R. Neve City & Countrey Purchaser 29   If a Barn consist of a Floor, and 2 Heads, where they lay Corn, they say a Barn of 2 Bays.
1786   J. Pinkerton Anc. Sc. Poems II. 374   The place at the head of a hall, where the floor was raised higher than the rest, and which was the honourable part.
1887   Times 22 Nov. 13/2   At the head of the Cathedral is the ‘Baptismal Font’.
1896   Every Sat. 17 Mar. 298/1   At the head of this chamber there was a kind of altar.
1918   Independent 18 May 281/2   Every night after dinner the younger officers gathered about the piano at the head of the darkened hall.
1991   National Geographic Traveler Nov. 72/1   At the head of the room,..the fabled 45.5-carat Hope Diamond.

1420—1991(Hide quotations)


 b. Either end of a bridge. See also bridgehead n. 1.

a1450  (c1410)    H. Lovelich Merlin (1932) III. l. 19175 (MED)   And to þe hed of þe brigge they gonnen drawe.
1539   R. Morison tr. Frontinus Strategemes & Policies Warre ii. xiii. sig. Hv   He hym selfe standynge before the head of the brydge, kepte of his ennemies, and at length.
1595   tr. A. Banchieri Noblenesse of Asse sig. F2v   Among the ruines of Aquileia..is to be seene part of a most sumptuous Bridge, at the head whereof, stands a huge Asse of very pure marble.
a1661   Earl of Monmouth tr. P. G. Capriata Hist. Wars Italy (1663) xvii. 707   They..fortified the heads of the Bridge better.
1735   J. Price Some Considerations Stone-bridge Thames 4   A House on each Head of the Bridge..to receive the Toll.
1809   tr. Ess. Theory & Pract. Art War I. 148   Whenever rivers are to be crossed, care should be taken that the two heads of the bridge be intrenched, and well furnished with troops.
1842   Macaulay Horatius in Lays Anc. Rome 61   As that great host, with measured tread..Rolled slowly towards the bridge's head.
1902   G. S. Whitmore Last Maori War ix. 142   The Europeans..effected the passage of the swamp, the last arriving at the head of the bridge at 4 a.m.
1988   J. Rykwert et al. tr. L. B. Alberti On Art of Building iv. vi. 109   The embanking abutments..must remain completely stable, in order..to support the heads of the bridge.
2008   ‘R. Young’ Fall of Templars (2009) xiv. 143   From the head of the bridge a causeway ran across these boggy fields.

a1450—2008(Hide quotations)


 26. Anatomy. A rounded end or articular surface of a bone. Cf. capitulum n. 1.

?a1425   tr. Guy de Chauliac Grande Chirurgie (N.Y. Acad. Med.) f. 9 (MED)   Wt þe flesh & þe ligament þat goþ out fro þe heued [L. a capite] of þe bone of þe spalde it maketh a muscle aboue þe middes of þe adiutorie.
1578   J. Banister Hist. Man i. f. 33   This same head [of thigh bone]..is almost wholly affourmed by an orbicular Appendaunce.
1684   tr. S. Blankaart Physical Dict. 80   Cotyle..is the Cavitie of the Huckle-bone, which is appointed to receive the head of the Thigh-bone.
1793   J. Bell Anat. Bones, Muscles, & Joints i. v. 122   The head of each rib has..a small articulating surface.
1871   T. H. Huxley Man. Anat. Vertebrated Animals 155   Head of the hyomandibular which articulates with the skull.
1934   J. A. Thomson & E. J. Holmyard Biol. for Everyman II. 1302   These three bones, ilium, ischium, and pubis, all contribute to make the deep cup or acetabulum in which the globular head of the femur works.
2007   Ultra Fit No. 5. 65/2   The hamstrings..insert into the upper end of the tibia bone in your lower leg, with the biceps femoris also inserting into the head of the fibula.

?a1425—2007(Hide quotations)


 27. Bricklaying. Either of the ends or smaller faces of a brick or other piece of building stone; esp. one exposed in the face of a wall. Cf. header n. 5a.

1791   J. Smeaton Narr. Edystone Lighthouse ii. i. 43   The long pieces or Stretchers were retained between two Headers or bond pieces; whose heads being cut dovetail-wise, adapted themselves to and confined in the stretchers.
1827   P. Nicholson Treat. Masonry & Stone-cutting (1828) iv. 70   The heads of the stones in the wall..form a portion of the concave surface [of the arch].
1846   Loudon's Encycl. Archit. (new ed.) Suppl. 1300/1   Headers showing only the narrow part or head of the bricks.
1899   Clay Worker Dec. 441/2   The problem was to round off the corners at the ends, or heads, of the brick.
1919   A. F. Greaves-Walker Clay Plant Constr. vii. 71   The head of the brick towards the fire will start shrinking before the head that is away from the fire.
2004   A. Bridgewater & G. Bridgewater Brick Projects for Landscape 28   The end or head of the brick is centered on the middle of the stretcher in the course below.

1791—2004(Hide quotations)

 III. That which comes first in a sequence, series, etc.; the beginning.

 28. The beginning of a word, sentence, text, etc.

eOE (Mercian)   Vespasian Psalter (1965) xxxix. 8   In capite libri scriptum est de me ut faciam uoluntatem tuam : in heafde boec awriten is bi me ðæt ic doe willan ðinne.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(1)) (1850) Psalms xxxix. 8   In the hed of the boc [L. in capite libri] it is write of me, that I do thi wil.
a1400  (?a1325)    Medit. on Supper of our Lord (Harl.) (1875) l. 320   To do þy wyl, y seyd y go; Yn þe bokes hede hyt ys wryte so.
a1425  (a1400)    Prick of Conscience (Galba & Harl.) (1863) l. 486 (MED)   E. es þe first letter and þe hede Of þe name of Eve.
1567   T. Harding Reioindre to M. Iewels Replie against Masse ix. f. 149   The head of the sentence you haue lopped of.
1597   Bp. J. King Lect. Ionas xxxix. 528   By his placing of it [sc. faith] in the heade of the booke, that is in the beginning of the whole narration.
1613   J. Floyd Purgatories Triumph ouer Hell 47   Looking into the English redition I found, As Razis, insteed of but Razias, and that he made As the head of the name, wherof it is the last part.
1738   W. Benson Lett. conc. Poet. Transl. i. 2   When several Relatives, each at the head of a separate Sentence, are governed by one Antecedent.
1789   tr. Accts. MS in Libr. King of France I. 396   All the articles..are distinguished only by a capital letter with red ink, which we see at the head of the word that begins the article.
1835   J. Hodgson Hist. Northumberland: 3rd Pt. III. Pref. p. lxi   The dash — at the beginning of entries in this article stands for the name or designation of the proprietor at the head of the paragraph that precedes it.
1902   F. Manley & W. N. Hailmann Eng. Lang. i. xxxiv. 228   We frequently find a conjunction standing at the head of a sentence or a paragraph, not so much to connect sentences as to show that the thought is continued.
1921   N. L. Redfield & F. d'Olivet Hebraic Tongue Restored i. iii. 101   The initial syllable em..is found at the head of the word em-place-ment.
2011   J. L. Kugel In Valley of Shadow 212   This is not to say..that moving an item from the very end of a sentence to its head never happens.

eOE—2011(Hide quotations)


 29. Astrology and (formerly) Astronomy. The beginning of a sign of the zodiac, i.e. the point at which the sun begins to pass through it. See sign n. 6.

c1400  (▸1391)    Chaucer Treat. Astrolabe (Cambr. Dd.3.53) (1872) i. §17. 9   In this heued of cancer is the grettest declinacioun northward of the sonne.
?1562   W. Ward tr. R. Roussat Most Excellent Bk. Doctour & Astrologien Arcandam sig. B.ii   The fyrst Chapter which is the head of Aries, being the fyrst particuler signe celestiall is called Aluathay.
1651   J. F. tr. H. C. Agrippa Three Bks. Occult Philos. ii. xxxiii. 286   His beginning is from the head of Aries of the eighth sphere; it causeth discords, and journies.
1703   J. Harris Descr. & Uses Celestial & Terrestr. Globes 44   The first Star in the Head of Aries will be rising about an hour after.
1786   B. Hancock Astron. Comets ii. 51   The small Star in the head of Aquarius.
1816   Scott Antiquary II. vi. 157   When she [sc. the moon] is in her fifteenth mansion, which mansion is in de head of Libra.
1915   L. W. de Laurence Bk. Magical Art (rev. ed.) vi. 190   The seven last mansions completing the last quarter of Heaven..beginning from the head of Capricorn.
2007   S. Sela tr. A. I. Ezra Bk. Reasons ii. ii. 187   The end of Virgo is the head of Libra and the end of Taurus is distant from Aries.

c1400—2007(Hide quotations)


 30. A chief or principal point or division of a discourse, subject, etc.; each of a set or succession of such points or divisions; (more generally) a point, a category, a topic, a matter.In later use influenced by sense 31, and frequently understood as referring to something that could constitute a notional heading, esp. when preceded by under.

c1500   Melusine (1895) xxiv. 185   This gentylman thanne reherced to them fro hed to hed..all thauenture of theire vyage.
1563   Ressoning Crosraguell & Knox f. 31v   Vnto you it alwayes aperteineth (and if euer we meit againe vpon that head, it wilbe yet iudged to aperteine to you) to proue that [etc.].
1593   R. Cosin Apol. for Sundrie Proc. (rev. ed.) iii. xi. 146   This..falleth vnder that head of his Sophisticall deuise of such differences, as touch not the very point in controuersie.
a1616   Shakespeare Timon of Athens (1623) iii. vi. 28   As if they labour'd To bring Man-slaughter into forme, and set Quarrelling Vpon the head of Valour.  
1632   J. Story tr. Short Surv. Sweden sig. A3   The Contents or principall heads handled in this whole Discourse.
1652   T. Gataker Antinomianism 5   We were acknowledged to agree in those two heds.
1667   N. Fairfax Let. 29 May in H. Oldenburg Corr. (1966) III. 421   The following observations come under ye head of Idiosyncrasis or ye By roads of Nature.
1725   R. Bradley Chomel's Dictionaire Œconomique   Pearl, a Disease in an Horse's Eye, under which Head we shall comprehend Pins, Spots, Webs, &c.
1773   O. Goldsmith She stoops to Conquer ii. 29   Make yourself easy on that head.
1838   C. Thirlwall Hist. Greece (new ed.) IV. xxxii. 241   The accusation comprised several heads.
1849   Macaulay Hist. Eng. I. 306   The expenditure under this head must have been small indeed.
1868   A. Helps Realmah II. xv. 212   I have very little to say upon this head.
1911   Classical Philol. 6 294   In addition to orthographical differences easily recognized as such, I believe that we may also classify the following readings under that head.
1969   I. Berlin Four Ess. Liberty (new ed.) p. x   The main issues between my serious critics and myself may be reduced to four heads.
2008   D. Weber By Schism rent Asunder (2009) vii. 79   Mahntayl had begun to entertain a few delusions upon that head.

c1500—2008(Hide quotations)


 a. Originally: the top of a page or piece of text. Later also: a title or other piece of text placed at the top of a page or section; a heading.Not always clearly distinguishable from sense 28.running head: see running adj. 25.

1560   Bible (Geneva) sig. *** iiiiv   We haue set ouer the head of euery page some notable worde or sentence which may greatly further aswel for memorie, as for the chief point of the page.
1586   A. Day Eng. Secretorie To Rdr. sig. **2v   Peruse but the head of euerie page, and..you shall finde what in the same Page is contained.
1610   J. Healey tr. St. Augustine Citie of God xviii. xxiii. 703   We haue laid it together, distinguishing it onely by the heads of the chapters, if the transcriber haue the care to obserue and follow vs.
1659   T. Willsford Scales of Comm. 58   Being stated (as in the head of the table).
1682   J. P. tr. H. Ludolf New Hist. Ethiopia To Rdr.   He..made the heads of the Chapters, the Sections, the Index, and Translated the Ethiopic into Latin.
1712   J. Addison Spectator No. 273. ¶2   Without seeing his Name at the Head of it.
1774   T. Warton Hist. Eng. Poetry I. xii. 347   The heads of the chapters are adorned with rude wooden cuts of the story.
1825   Cobbett's Weekly Reg. 1 Oct. 28   Let us take the title of the last chapter of Peter Macculloch's book; I mean the head of the chapter.
1919   M. B. Orvis Applic. Commerc. Advertising Methods University Extension 31   This command, which is the main head, is printed in red, as is the university signature at the bottom of the poster.
2007   Marketing Direct (Nexis) 1 May 34   Four of the five letters..run to two pages, start with a head and run second-colour sub-heads through the text.

1560—2007(Hide quotations)


 b. A headline in a newspaper.

1889   T. Campbell-Copeland Ladder of Journalism ii. 12   A careful reporter is soon noticed by the City Editor, who feels..he can put a head on the article and send it straight up to the composing room.
1911   H. S. Harrison Queed xviii. 230   The Chronicle that afternoon shrieked it under a five-column head.
1967   Guardian 2 Nov. 8/7   ‘Ebullient Mr Brown hits out,’ said the (changed) head on the last edition.
2010   E. L. Roberts in R. Schmuhl Making Words Dance 119   There is a 3-inch story about Goldsboro under an 18-point head.

1889—2010(Hide quotations)


 a. Phonetics. The first accented element or elements in a sequence of sounds before the nucleus (nucleus n. 12a).

1922   H. E. Palmer Eng. Intonation v. 17   Any syllable or syllables preceding the nucleus in the same Tone-Group is termed the ‘Head’ of the group.
1964   M. Schubiger in D. Abercrombie et al. Daniel Jones 263   I am using the term head for the first stressed element pitched high.
2011   P. Tench Transcribing Sound of Eng. xi. 181   It must..be understood that there may be more than two stressed syllables in the head.

1922—2011(Hide quotations)


 b. Grammar. An element that has the same functions as the larger structure (e.g. a phrase or clause) of which it is part, and is therefore regarded as central to that structure. Cf. head noun n. at Compounds 4.

1933   L. Bloomfield Language xii. 195   Poor John belongs to the same form-class as John, which we accordingly call the head; the other member, in our example poor, is the attribute.
1957   Language 33 86   If a modifier occurs with -tu, its nominal head is masculine, if with -tay, feminine.
1964   Amer. Speech 39 37   Nice city home... All the ten fine old stone houses. In these sequences the noun is more intimately tied to the head than is the adjective.
1991   R. M. W. Dixon New Approach to Eng. Gram. ii. 20   A noun phrase..can have a common noun (e.g. mountain, boy) as head.
2006   G. A. Broadwell Choctaw Ref. Gram. xv. 256   In relative clauses, quantifiers and demonstratives associated with the head of the relative clause tend to appear to the right of the verb.

1933—2006(Hide quotations)

 IV. A person or thing holding the senior or most important position; a chief or leader, and related senses.

 a. A person to whom others are subordinate; a chief, a ruler, a leader, a commander. In later use also (usually with of): a person in charge of a particular activity or function within an organization.See also head of state n. at Phrases 3p, head of house n. 1.

eOE   King Ælfred tr. Gregory Pastoral Care (Hatton) (1871) xvii. 113   Ða ic ðe gesette eallum Israhelum to heafde [L. caput te constitui].
OE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Tiber. B.i) anno 1011   Wæs ða ræpling se ðe ær wæs heafod Angelkynnes & Cristendomes.
?c1200   Ormulum (Burchfield transcript) l. 362   He wass preost. Hæfedd off alle preostess.
c1225  (?c1200)    Sawles Warde (Bodl.) (1938) 6   Þet heaued þrof is þe feont.
c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 8138   Vn-wis is þe king..þenne þat hæfd is unwræst þe hælp is þæ wurse.
c1300   Life & Martyrdom Thomas Becket (Harl. 2277) (1845) 77   He let hote..That no man ne scholde for him bidde... Moche was the schame tho, that holi church bitidde, Whan heo ne moste for hire heved [c1300 Laud for so holi a man]..bidde!
c1390   MS Vernon Homilies in Archiv f. das Studium der Neueren Sprachen (1877) 57 263 (MED)   A Bisschop..þat wonede..in Roome, And was hed of cristendome.
a1425  (?c1384)    Wyclif Sel. Eng. Wks. (1871) III. 339   Heed of þis Chirche is Crist, boþe God and man.
a1475   J. Fortescue Governance of Eng. (Laud) (1885) 146   Thai all haue an hed, or a cheeff, to rule þe counsell.
1532–3   Act 24 Hen. VIII c. 12 Preamble   This Realme of Englond is an Impire..governed by oon Supreme heede and King.
1579   Spenser Shepheardes Cal. June 83   The soueraigne head Of shepheards all.
1613   T. Fitzherbert Adioynder to Suppl. R. Persons Discuss. iv. 177   Peter the head of all the Apostles sate first in the Roman chayre.
1667   Milton Paradise Lost ix. 1155   Why didst not thou the Head Command me absolutely not to go?  
1712   R. Steele Spectator No. 479. ⁋5   Socrates, who is by all Accounts the undoubted Head of the Sect of the Hen-peck'd.
1728   E. Chambers Cycl. (at cited word)   A Dean is the Head of his Chapter.
1793   A. Hamilton Let. 24 Oct. in Papers (1969) XV. 375   The President and heads of departments ought to be near Congress.
1838   W. H. Prescott Hist. Reign Ferdinand & Isabella I. i. iv. 118   The duke of Infantado, the head of the house of Mendoza.
1877   Canad. Parl. Compan. x. 245   An item providing for payment of a special Departmental Head of Education.
1894   Pittsburgh Legal Jrnl. 12 Dec. 170/2   When dishonor was brought upon the family, he, of course, as its head, suffered thereby personally.
1924   ‘R. Daly’ Outpost xix. 176   You seem to be in favour with the heads at Port Mahon..why can't you persuade them to send another man here?
1956   Police Jrnl. 29 52   He is now the head of a team whose job is to police the section.
1986   Irish Times 2 May 11   From 1976 until 1982 she was head of English at Dulwich College.
2009   Atlantic Monthly May 62/2   While at JPL, he was also the head of a study group that investigated [etc.].

eOE—2009(Hide quotations)


 b. spec. The person having authority over or charge of a college or school; a headmaster or headmistress, a principal.

1550   J. Hooper Ouersight Jonas v. f. cxiiv   So shuld the prouost, heades of Colledges, masters of scholes, go and teache the thynge apertayneth to theyr place and vocacion.
1576   in J. Nichols Progresses Queen Elizabeth (1823) II. 111   The said Vice-chauncelor and hedds of Colledges.
1631   T. Adams Let. 3 Mar. in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eminent Literary Men (1843) 147   From the Vice-Chancellour and Heads of your famous University.
1691   G. Rule Vindic. Church Scotl. 5   He was..the Head of a School, where Students were bred for the Ministry.
1705   T. Hearne Diary 7 Sept. in Remarks & Coll. (1885) I. 42   Mr. Smith of University College made his Complainte..for the Fellows turning him out... The Mancipal was sent for, who said that he never knew any Fellow turn'd out in the Heads Absence.
1783   European Mag. & London Rev. Mar. 199/1   He received the first rudiments of classical learning under Mr. Richard Yates, Head of the Grammar School in that town.
1847   Tennyson Princess iv. 83   Delivering seal'd dispatches which the Head Took half-amazed.
1889   A. R. Hope in Boy's Own Paper 3 Aug. 697/3   Who could..mix on equal terms with those ineffable beings the head's daughters.
1910   Amer. Educ. Rev. June 561/1   The youngest college president in North Carolina is Professor John F. Burcheil, just elected head of Catawba College.
1953   K. Tennant Joyful Condemned xvi. 136   The staff-room was split over the sensational row between Miss Page and the Head.
1967   Charter Royal Coll. Art 11 Sept. §5   There shall be a Provost of the College who shall be the Head of the College.
1990   S. Maitland Three Times Table (1991) ii. iii. 178   She found herself in the Head's office, white and trembling, so obviously terrified that the Head herself was taken aback.

1550—1990(Hide quotations)


 c. A group of people in a position of command or leadership.In quot. 1665: spec. = caput n. 3.

1600   C. Edmondes Obseruations Fiue Bks. Caesars Comm. i. xii. 33   That Gallia was vnhappely diuided into two factions, the Hedui were the head of the one, and the Auerni of the other.
1653   W. Dell Tryal of Spirits 66   Antichrist and his false Teachers, who are the Head of the Malignant Church and People.
1665   J. Buck in G. Peacock Observ. Statutes Univ. Cambr. (1841) App. B 66   The V.C. readeth all the graces, some one of the Head holding the Posers Bill to stay those whose names are not in the said Bill.
1762   Mod. Part Universal Hist. XXXVI. vii. 178   The Florentines..admitted into the confederacy, of which they were the head, the inhabitants of Rimini, Faenza, [etc.].
1804   J. Lunn Diss. Conversion & Restoration of Jews 220   If..the senate and not the Pope had the chief power in their hands, then they were the head of the city.
1896   Oracle Encycl. IV. 268/2   His family is the head of the Sidhu Jat tribe.
1917   Travel Nov. 39/1   The ruler [of San Marino] is not a president, the power being vested in two chief regents... They jointly are the head of the State.
1979   N. Sudarkasa in W. A. Shack & E. P. Skinner Strangers in Afr. Societies viii. 158   According to the constitution of the Kumasi District Nigerian Community, that body was ‘the head of all the Tribunal Unions’.

1600—1979(Hide quotations)


 a. A person or thing holding a pre-eminent position; the best or most important person or thing. Now rare.In use with reference to pride as a capital sin (e.g. quots. OE, ?a1325) also implying ‘origin’. Cf. sense 37b.In quot. 1584: the best part. Cf. sense 20b.

eOE   tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (Tanner) iii. xv. 224   Hwearf eft on his eðel to Hii þæm ealonde, þæt monigra mynstra heannisse & heafod [L. caput et arcem] Scottas hæfdon.
OE   Confessionale Pseudo-Egberti (Tiber.) in Anglia (1889) 12 518   Ofermodines seo is heofod & wyrtruma ealra leahtra.
?a1325   in W. Heuser Kildare-Gedichte (1904) 121   First at prude ich wol begin, For hit is heuid of al sinne.
c1440  (?a1400)    Morte Arthure l. 1344 (MED)   I had leuer then all Fraunce, that heuede es of rewmes, Fyghte with the.
c1540  (?a1400)    Gest Historiale Destr. Troy (2002) f. 47   Elan þat haldyn was hed of all ladys And the fairest of feturs formyt in erthe.
1584   T. Cogan Hauen of Health cxcv. 156   Creame..is indeede the verie head or heart of Mylke.
1818   J. Murray Let. 3 Sept. in S. Smiles Publisher & his Friends (1891) II. xx. 14   Barrow, as the head of all my most respected friends, has told me that [etc.].
1866   Temple Bar Oct. 338   The myth of Arthur..narrates that Lancelot, head of all Christian knights, once stopped at a castle where dwelt [etc.].
1991   H. V. Kuhnlein & N. J. Turner Trad. Plant Foods Canad. Indigenous Peoples (1996) 179   In Nlaka'pamux and Okanagan-Colville, they [sc. black huckleberries] are considered the ‘head’ of all the fruits.

eOE—1991(Hide quotations)


 b. A capital city; the chief city or town of a country or region. Now somewhat rare.

eOE   tr. Orosius Hist. (BL Add.) (1980) ii. i. 36   Sameramis..getimbrede þa burg Babylonie, to þon þæt heo wære heafod ealra Asiria [L. caputque regni Assyriis ut esset instituit].
OE   Homily: De Temporibus Anticristi (Corpus Cambr. 419) in A. S. Napier Wulfstan (1883) 194   On þyssere [byrig] Babilonia, þe hwilon wæs..Persa rices heafod, bið Antecrist geboren.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(1)) (1850) Isa. vii. 8   The hed of Sirie Damasch.
a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1869) II. 79   Þis citee in tyme of Britouns was heed and chief citee of al Venedocia.
a1475  (a1447)    O. Bokenham Mappula Angliae in Englische Studien (1887) 10 16   Caunturbury, the heed of Kent, maad Rudhudebras.
1544   A. Cope Hist. Anniball & Scipio xxvi. f. 41v   He promysed theym, that Capua shulde in shorte space be the heade of all Italye.
1644   K. Digby Two Treat. ii. Concl. 452   That opulent citty, the head of the world, where millions were as familiar as pence in other places.
1765   D. Fenning et al. New Syst. Geogr. (new ed.) II. iii. xxxi. 609/1   Mullingar..is the head of the county [of West-Meath] by act of parliament, and here the sessions of the county are held.
1848   H. T. Ryde tr. A. de Lamartine Hist. of Girondists II. xxxiii. 304   They hate Paris because Paris is the head of the nation, and contains a vast populace.
1871   J. Carroll Case & his Cotemporaries III. ix. 388   The Rev. W. Ryerson was sent to Brockville, the head of the District, where multitudes flocked to hear him.
1947   R. E. Dickinson tr. R. Blanchard in City Region & Regionalism i. 12   It applies to a city which..is, as it were, the head of the region.
2000   E. Lipiński Aramaeans vi. 143   Ta'idu is the head of the province to which Nawar belonged in the 14th century B.C.

eOE—2000(Hide quotations)


 35. The position or fact of being a chief, leader, or commander, or of being pre-eminent in authority, excellence, etc. Frequently in at (also †in) the head of .Sometimes with admixture of sense 22a(a).

eOE (Mercian)   Vespasian Psalter (1965) xvii. 41 (44)   Constitues me in caput gentium : ðu gesetes me in heafud ðieda [OE Lambeth Psalter on heafod uel on forewearde þeoda].
▸ 1357   J. Gaytryge Lay Folks' Catech. (York Min.) (1901) l. 200   Do worship to fadir and to modir..til our gastly fadirs that has hede [c1440 Thornton heuede] of us.
a1400   Psalter (Vesp.) xvii. 47 in C. Horstmann Yorkshire Writers (1896) II. 150   Þou sal, In heued of genge [L. caput gentium] me set with-al.
1576   J. Foxe Actes & Monuments (rev. ed.) I. ii. 121/1   Thus began first Rome to take an head aboue all other Churches.
a1640   P. Massinger Bashful Lover i. ii. 109 in 3 New Playes (1655)    Though you charg'd me I' th' head of your troops.
1652   J. Wright tr. J.-P. Camus Nature's Paradox 337   Liante..placed himself at the head of this resolute Party.
1662   H. More Coll. Philos. Writings (ed. 2) Pref. Gen. p. xxiii   Certain opinions of his..in the head of which he names this of the Præexistence of the Soul.
1709   J. Addison Tatler No. 122. ⁋1   A People of so much Virtue were deservedly placed at the Head of Mankind.
1788   Gentleman's Mag. Apr. 356/1   The man who assumed the head of these ruffians, turning to his accomplices.
1849   Macaulay Hist. Eng. II. vii. 166   At twenty-one..he was placed at the head of the administration.
1894   H. Drummond Lowell Lect. Ascent Man 143   Anatomy places Man at the head of all other animals that were ever made.
1903   Amer. Jrnl. Nursing 3 834   The lady superior who was at the head of the Catholic schools and convent at South Bend.
1999   F. von Metzler in C.-L. Holtfrerich Frankfurt as Financial Centre 304   Frankfurt's path to the head of Europe is not assured.
2008   Daily Tel. 30 July 18/8   Their leader..stayed on as prime minister until 1922 at the head of a coalition.

eOE—2008(Hide quotations)

 V. With reference to geographical or topographical features.

 36. The uppermost or furthermost portion of a valley, cave, inlet, etc. Also: that end of a lake or other body of water at which a river or stream enters it.

eOE   Bounds (Sawyer 298) in D. Hooke Pre-Conquest Charter-bounds Devon & Cornwall (1994) 105   Fram smalan cumbes heafde to græwan stane.
OE   Royal Charter: Offa of Mercia to St. Mary's Church, Worcester (Sawyer 126) in D. Hooke Worcs. Anglo-Saxon Charter-bounds (1990) 87   Of seges mere in þæs pulles heafod & of ðam heafde to þornbrycge.
c1300   Holy Cross (Laud) 179 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 6   Ȝwane þou comest to þe heued of þis valeie, a grene wei þov schalt wiende.
?a1425   Mandeville's Trav. (Egerton) (1889) 58   At þe heued of þis see of Galile..es a castell.
a1500   Legend of Cross in Medium Ævum (1965) 34 213   In the hed of this vale þu shalt fynde drie passis.
1539   Bible (Great) Isaiah xxviii. f. xlixv/2   Ye (As a floure yt faydeth awaye) vpon the head [1535 Coverdale toppe] of the valley of such as be in welth.
1615   E. Grimeston tr. P. d'Avity Estates 1020   Neere vnto the red sea, and as it were in the head of the Arabian gulfe, stands the towne of Suez.
1655   I. Walton Compl. Angler (ed. 2) xx. 334   When you have..made the earth firme where the head of the Pond must be.
1769   T. Nugent tr. P. J. Grosley New Observ. Italy I. 6   You come to a very steep brow of a hill, which, after intersecting the road, projects over the head of the lake.
1789   W. Tench Narr. Exped. Botany Bay ix. 60   Into the head of the cove..runs a small stream of fresh water.
1818   J. C. Curwen Observ. State Ireland I. xv. 189   For a short distance, the opening that leads to the head of the cavern..is low and narrow.
1830   C. Lyell Princ. Geol. I. 286   A point which must..be considered the head of its delta.
1863   A. P. Stanley Lect. Jewish Church I. viii. 184   At the head of the gulf.
1902   G. S. Whitmore Last Maori War ii. 17   I left these men..at a sort of camp at the head of the valley.
1963   G. L. Pickard Descriptive Physical Oceanogr. viii. 182   Positive estuaries have a river or rivers emptying into them, usually at the head.
1986   Lochaber News 20 Sept. 7/2   Perhaps the worst bit was at the head of Loch Hourn.
2012   Sunday Tel. (Nexis) 22 Jan. (Features section) 15   Bessans..and L'Ecot, a tiny hamlet at the head of the valley, were left unscathed.

eOE—2012(Hide quotations)


 a. The source or headwaters of a river or stream. Formerly also in plural in same sense. Cf. fountain-head n. 1, wellhead n. 1.

eOE   Bounds (Sawyer 298) in D. Hooke Pre-Conquest Charter-bounds Devon & Cornwall (1994) 105   Ðonne on ðone dic ðær Esne ðone weg fordealf, ðonon ofdune on ðæs wælles heafod.
lOE   Bounds (Sawyer 258) in W. de G. Birch Cartularium Saxonicum (1885) I. 257   Andlang Aleburnan on beueres broces heafod.
lOE   Bounds (Sawyer 653) in D. Hooke Pre-Conquest Charter-bounds Devon & Cornwall (1994) 156   Andlang dic to holon broces heafdum.
a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1869) II. 35   Þe reuers Seuarne and Dee almost at [1482 Caxton to] þe hedes.
?c1450   Life St. Cuthbert (1891) l. 8103   Fra þeyn vp warde to þe hede Of a watir hat warnede.
1541   Act 33 Hen. VIII c. 35   Cleane running water, issuyng out of the heades of freshe springes.
a1552   J. Leland Itinerary (1711) II. 20   The Hed of Isis in Coteswalde risith about a Mile a this side Tetbyri.
1625   N. Carpenter Geogr. Delineated ii. ix. 142   Nilus in Africk is thought to haue his first head at the mountaines of the Moone.
1718   I. Watts Psalms of David cxiv. ii   Jordan beheld their March and fled With backward Current to his Head.
1793   J. Hunter Hist. Jrnl. xviii. 458   They came to a run of water, which they supposed to be the head of the Nepean river.
1854   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 15 ii. 426   Where the spring head has been boggy.
1905   C. E. Slocum Hist. Maumee River Basin 469   Jacques Godefroy..passed up to the head of the Maumee to aid in the capture of the then British Fort Miami.
1969   F. B. Woodford & A. M. Woodford All our Yesterdays ii. 40   The French, Hurons, and Ottawas..overtook them near Windmill Point at the head of the Detroit River.
2002   G. M. Eberhart Mysterious Creatures II. 453/1   A cat..was killed after it raided a henhouse at the head of the Mulgrave River.

eOE—2002(Hide quotations)


 b. figurative and in figurative contexts: the source or origin of something. Cf. fountain-head n. 2, wellhead n. 2.In later use chiefly as part of an extended metaphor.

eOE   Metrical Dialogue of Solomon & Saturn (Corpus Cambr. 422) ii. 446   Ac hwæt witeð us wyrd seo swiðe, eallra fyrena fruma, fæhðo modor, weana wyrtwela, wopes heafod.
a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) v. l. 2604   Sche is the pure hed and welle And Mirour and ensample of goode.
?a1400  (a1338)    R. Mannyng Chron. (Petyt) (1996) i. l. 47   Hengist he hight, & Hors his broþire, þes were hede, als we fynde, where of is comen oure Inglis kynde.
c1443   R. Pecock Reule of Crysten Religioun (1927) 376   Oonly resoun in his natural liȝt..is þe heed of al oure gouernaunce.
a1500  (▸1422)    J. Yonge tr. Secreta Secret. (Rawl.) (1898) 147 (MED)   He sholde ham [sc. beasts] surmounte in vertues, and namely in two, that byth two begynnyngis and hedis of al maner mankynde workis.
1548   T. Cranmer Catechismus sig. Ddvjv   The wel and heade, out of the which al these euylle do sprynge is original synne.
1592   A. Day 2nd Pt. Eng. Secretorie sig. P1v, in Eng. Secretorie (rev. ed.)    I will goe to the head of the matter.
1720   D. Waterland 8 Serm. Divinity of Christ 112   By referring all Things to one Head and Fountain.
1846   J. Miller 13th Ann. Rep. Superintendent Common Schools Pennsylvania 6   It may be said, that the school-master is the head of the fountain of instruction.
1931   A. E. Ralli Hist. Shakespearian Crit. I. xiii. 288   Bolingbroke..sinned in causing Richard's death, but the head and spring of all the evils was the usurpation.
1970   W. A. Jurgens tr. St. Ephraim in Faith of Early Fathers I. 311   You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples.
2009   H. Cooper in Oxf. Handbk. Tudor Lit. 760   Chaucer is the source of his [sc. Spenser's] inspiration, the head of the river of English poetry.

eOE—2009(Hide quotations)


 a. Agriculture. A strip of land at the end of a ploughed field; = headland n. 1. In Old English also in plural in same sense. Obsolete.In later use merged with sense 38b.

OE   Bounds (Sawyer 1321) in D. Hooke Warwickshire Anglo-Saxon Charter-bounds (1999) 84   Þonne norð andlangc dunes, þonne ut æt þæs croftes heafod þæt sticað on þære lace.
OE   Bounds (Sawyer 587) in S. E. Kelly Charters of Abingdon Abbey, Pt. 2 (2001) 294   Of þam pytte andlang riþiges on þæt heafodlond; of þam heafodon andlang fura.
lOE   Royal Charter: Eadred to Ælfsige Hunlafing (Sawyer 566) in A. J. Robertson Anglo-Saxon Charters (1956) 56   Þonne suð be þen Æfden andlang þere mære to fægran broce.
c1425   in Hist. MSS Comm.: Rep. MSS Ld. Middleton (1911) 107 in Parl. Papers (Cd. 5567) XXVII. 1   Also if any man tye hyse horss or reche on any havedes or be syk sydes in to any mannes Korn..make amendes to hym that hasse the harme.
a1475   in A. Clark Eng. Reg. Godstow Nunnery (1905) i. 320   Þe next acre by-syde þe forowe & þe hed of þe foreseyde acre.
a1500  (▸1299)    in H. E. Salter & A. H. Cooke Boarstall Cartulary (1930) 129 (MED)   [Alice..grants to John Pypat..half an acre..with their] hades [of meadow].

OE—a1500(Hide quotations)


 b. More generally: a terminal or bounding portion of land; an edge, a boundary. Obsolete (hist. in later use).Used esp. with reference to the shorter edges of a piece of land which has a more or less elongated shape, or is of greater length than breadth.

OE   Bounds (Sawyer 1547) in D. Hooke Pre-Conquest Charter-bounds Devon & Cornwall (1994) 217   On þone wille on þæs mores heafod.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) I. xiii. xiv. 662   Þe heuedes [L. termini] of pondes beth ystrengþede with hepes and walles for the watir shulde noȝt passe owt to swyþe.
c1425   in E. Edwards Liber Monasterii de Hyda (1866) 223 (MED)   Fro thennys, be north the long lawpath; fro that path west, to the morys hede [c1425 (OE) on þæs mores heafod].
1452   in R. Willis & J. W. Clark Archit. Hist. Univ. Cambr. (1886) I. 336   [A messuage] abbuttyng at the one heved vpon the high strete and at the other heved vpon the said College.
1622   Destr. Troy II. 74   The east hed abutting upon the strete and the west hed upon the buildings belonging to Katherine Hall.
1668   H. Savage Balliofergus xxii. 34   One end abbuts upon Exeter-lane towards the North..and the other Head of it abbuts upon the Ground or Tenement of the Abbot and Convent of Dorchester.
1765   Act for vesting Several Estates Essex, Suffolk, Bucks, & Middlesex (Private Acts 5 Geo. III c. 99) 7   The South Head thereof abuts upon the Lands now or late of the said Thomas Bright, and the North Head upon the Way called Bury Way.
1873   E. Hailstone Hist. & Antiq. Parish of Bottisham ii. ix. 290   Six acres and a half of wheat lay in the northfield in two divisions.., the heads of which abutted on the land of the same prior and convent towards the south.
1902   Trans. Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian Soc. 2 309   He granted..one acre of his land.., one head whereof extends towards the peat-moss on the east and the other head towards Grucocgile on the west.

OE—1902(Hide quotations)


 a. A projecting piece of coastal land, esp. when of considerable height; a promontory, a headland, a cape. Frequently (and orig.) in place names, and (in later use) in the fuller form head of land. Also in plural: the projecting pieces of land which enclose a bay. Cf. pen n.1

1315   in B. G. Charles Non-Celtic Place-names Wales (1938) 235   Haliheved[i.e. Holyhead].
1489   Liber Pluscardensis (Fairf.) (1877) I. 278   Apud locum qui Sanct Abbis Heid vocatur.
1577   R. Holinshed Hist. Eng. 6/1 in Chron. I   The name of an head of land in Britayn called Promontorium Herculis.
a1650   G. Boate Irelands Nat. Hist. (1652) iv. 39   Upon the West-side of the Irish coast are four principal Heads.
1685   B. Ringrose Bucaniers Amer. iv. xi. 58   The Cape [of San Francisco]..looked very like unto Beachy-head in England.
1773   New Display Beauties of Eng. (ed. 2) 213   Near Dover-Castle there is a head of land, called South Foreland, by way of distinction from another head or promontory, which forms the north-east point of the Kentish shore.
1817   Missionary Reg. Feb. 72/1   The ships were surrounded with canoes, which kept her company till she was withoutside the heads of the Bay.
1893   W. T. Wawn S. Sea Islanders x. 162   I attempted to enter the bay, round which the island extends in a horseshoe form. Hardly were we within the ‘Heads’, when the wind dropped.
1925   Brit. Islands Pilot (ed. 2) VI. 317   Cantick Head... The head, which is rather low and rounded, terminates in an abrupt cliff to the southward... The lighthouse on the head is conspicuous.
1948   L. F. Horsfall in C. E. Fayle et al. Trade Winds viii. 184   There was good anchorage within the heads of the bay.
1997   W. Hobbs Ghost Canoe (1998) 180   The canoes crossed Makah Bay..and rounded a head of land to the south of it.

1315—1997(Hide quotations)


 b. The seaward end of a pier, breakwater, or similar structure. See also pier head n.

1553   J. Brende tr. Q. Curtius Rufus Hist. iv. f. 38   When he had beaten the water and lyfted vp hymselfe at the head of the mole [L. a capite molis], [he] diued vnder the water agayne.
1652   R. Codrington tr. Q. Curtius Rufus Life & Death Alexander iv. 53   At the head of the Peer they raised up two Towers, from whence..they kept off the Boats that came about them.
1744   C. Thompson Travels III. 83   They filled a Vessel with Sulphur,..and having tow'd it to the Head of the Mole, they set it on fire.
1830   Fraser's Mag. Oct. 300/2   He had just succeeded in clearing the pier's head, and was getting fast into smooth water.
1870   Boys of Eng. 1 Mar. 179/1   There was light enough, even if the harbour light had not been flickering at the head of the breakwater, to enable them to keep clear of that structure.
1955   Irish Naturalists' Jrnl. 11 339   Fishing for herrings some 200 yards off the head of the pier.
2005   F. Verhaeghe et al. in J. Story Charlemagne xv. 273   Ships could only be moored at the head of the individual jetties.

1553—2005(Hide quotations)


 c. Chiefly Nautical. A projecting piece of a rock, sandbank, reef, etc., lying at or just beneath the surface of the sea.

1584   R. Norman tr. C. Antoniszoon Safegard of Sailers f. 49   The souther head of the Goodwin [sands] and the point at Douer, lie the one off of the other southwest and northeast.
1761   tr. G. B. Du Bocage Petit Neptune François ii. 20   It [sc. the rock] is almost always above water, unless it be a very high tide, and there are even two heads which are never covered.
1775   B. Romans Conc. Nat. Hist. E. & W. Florida App. 34   1½ miles E. from the land are a parcel of dangerous sunken heads called the Hen and Chickens.
1798   L. Furlong Amer. Coast Pilot (ed. 2) 158   The channel..is full of heads of coral rocks.
1837   J. R. McCulloch Statist. Acct. Brit. Empire I. i. i. 68   The Bunt Head, on the west side [of the Goodwin Sands], is very dangerous.
1881   Sailing Direct. West Indies: Porto Rico to Gulf of Florida 70   Thence the foul ground, including Barrack and Ravient Reefs, which have several patches and sharp heads of rock, extends to the W.N.W. 2 miles.
1920   Pacific Islands Pilot (ed. 2) 112   Homedebua Peak bearing 27° will lead midway between Peterson Reefs and the sunken heads extending southwestward from Unda Point.
a1961   E. Hemingway Islands in Stream (1970) iii. xii. 332   He steered due north to get into blue water and past the dangerous rocky heads of the outer reef.
2004   Atlantic Boating Almanac: Gulf of Mexico V. xiv. 550   The Invisibles..are three small rocky heads covered 4 to 5′.

1584—2004(Hide quotations)

 d. English regional.

(a) A part of an underlying stratum, esp. of marl, seen protruding through an overlying one. Obsolete.

1686   R. Plot Nat. Hist. Staffs. iii. 119   Sometimes it [sc. marl] lyes so ebb..that they plow up the head of it.
1787   W. Marshall Rural Econ. Norfolk I. 19   The white marls of this District..in distinct masses, of different figures and magnitudes, rising with irregular heads toward the surface.
1846   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 7 ii. 452   ‘Heads’ or prominent parts of the substratum of sand rising up through the substratum of brick earth in the manner that ‘heads of marl’ shoot up towards the surface.

1686—1846(Hide quotations)


 (b) As a mass noun. Surface material consisting of fragments of an underlying stratum.

1876   H. B. Woodward Geol. Eng. & Wales x. 331   Between Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot there are accumulations of sand and gravel which rest on the Miocene deposits, and are called the ‘Head’.
1930   Jrnl. Trans. Victoria Inst. 62 73   ‘Head’ is a term applied to this Rubble-drift where it masks an old raised beach.
2009   F. G. Bell et al. in M. G. Culshaw et al. Engin. Geol. Tomorrow's Cities 15/1   Head in the Nottingham area usually is thin and of variable composition depending on the nature of the parent material.

1876—2009(Hide quotations)


 40. The top or summit of a hill or mountain.

?a1425   Mandeville's Trav. (Egerton) (1889) 61 (MED)   Þare er also many gude tounes toward þe heued [F. chief] of þir hilles.
c1550   Complaynt Scotl. (1979) vi. 41   Ane man beand on the hede of ane hil.
1604   Shakespeare Hamlet v. i. 249   The skyesh head Of blew Olympus.  
1654   J. Howell in S. Lennard tr. S. Mazzella Parthenopoeia To Rdr. sig. A2v   The great Vorago or fiery Gulph..which rageth in the head of that Mountain [sc. Vesuvius].
1742   S. Boyse tr. W. van Haren Praise of Peace i. 8   An ice-crown'd Mountain's Head.
1797   A. Radcliffe Italian II. ii. 83   Its peaked head towered far above every neighbouring summit.
1810   Scott Lady of Lake i. 5   But, when the sun his beacon red Had kindled on Benvoirlich's head.
1842   Knickerbocker Sept. 242   At evening, when the sun sets red Behind yon mountain's cloudy head.
1917   Vermonter 23 59/2   We found ourselves on the bald head of the mountain.
1982   Mother Jones July 57/1   The majestic snow-covered head of Popo [i.e. Popocatepetl].
2009   L. Leigh Coyote's Mate x. 135   Mortar fire is coming from the north, at the head of the mountain.

?a1425—2009(Hide quotations)


 41. orig. Scottish. The top or upper end of a road, street, etc.; the part of a subsidiary road nearest the main road. Also: the upper or main end of a town; the outer part of a town leading towards a main road or highway.

1458   Extracts Rec. in W. Chambers Charters Burgh Peebles (1872) 126   The land..liand on the conȝe at the hed of the Briggat.
1681   in J. D. Marwick Extracts Rec. Burgh Glasgow (1905) III. 302   To put out baill fyres at the heid of ilk clos.
1773   London Mag. Nov. 534/2   [Soldiers] were posted..in a hut erected at the head of the road.
1785   P. Delamotte Weymouth Guide 84   The road [to Weymouth] lies through Dorchester, which is crossed at the head of the town.
1801   J. Baillie Impartial Hist. Newcastle upon Tyne 538   Besides these, at the head of the street, are several large gardens and nurseries.
1832   Hazard's Reg. Pennsylvania 10 Mar. 147/2   Spring water is introduced through all the principal streets, by iron pipes, from a reservoir situated at the head of the town.
1898   L. A. Jones Treat. Law Easements iv. iii. 186   He conveyed a lot at the head of the alley... This conveyance passed no right to use the alley.
1977   J. Pepper What Thing to Say 53   I went up to see Mrs Thingimabob... You know the one that's married on the fella at the head of the road?
1990   W. J. Wood Battles of Revol. War iii. 65   He marched several companies..to the roads at the head of the town.
2009   Ireland's Eye Jan. 7/1   Johnny walked at a leisurely pace..towards the head of the road, where there was a crossroads.

1458—2009(Hide quotations)

 VI. Miscellaneous specific and technical uses.

 42. A bundle of hemp, silk, flax, or the like; spec. one of a specific size or weight (as in quots. 1704, 1858).

a1325   Statutes of Realm (2011) xxix. 89   Þe chef of fustian contenez xiii elne, þe heued of sendal of x elne.
1565   in J. B. Paul Accts. Treasurer Scotl. (1916) XI. 440   Ane heid of hemp and twa elsingis to the cordinar.
1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. iii. 106/2   Kirtle Flax, is twelve heads in a bunch, and is about an hundred pounds in weight.
1704   Dict. Rusticum   Head of Flax..signifies twelve Sticks of Flax tied up to make a bunch.
1797   J. Sinclair Statist. Acct. Scotl. XIX. 402   Not a single head of flax amissing.
1825   Edinb. Mag. & Literary Misc. Sept. 373/2   They..attached, by a string, several heads of silk to the trigger of the piece.
1858   P. L. Simmonds Dict. Trade Products   Head,..a bundle of flax measuring probably two feet in length, and weighing a few pounds; in the North of Europe 18 head of hemp or flax are about 1 cwt.
1897   Textile Amer. 6 Nov. 49/2   The silk..is..‘sticked’ for dyeing, putting six or eight heads of silk on each stick.
1953   G. B. Hughes Living Crafts viii. 83   The hackler..takes a ‘head’ of hemp in her right hand, and holds it spread fan-wise.
1999   tr. J. Glader in R. Kvideland & H. K. Sehmsdorf All World's Reward lxxiv. 239   She always bragged that she was so handy she could spin a whole head of flax in a single day.

a1325—1999(Hide quotations)


a. A bank or dam retaining a body of water. Obsolete.

?a1425  (a1400)    Brut (Corpus Cambr.) 330 (MED)   Brekyng her fisshepond hedis, & lete þe water of her pondes, stewes & ryuers, renne out.
1530   J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 506/2   I damme or make the heed of a water.
1563   Act 5 Eliz. c. 21 §1   Any Hedd or Heddes, Damme or Dammes, of any Pondes, Pooles, Motes, Stanges, Steues, or severall Pittes.
1814   Gen. Rep. Agric. State Scotl. II. xiii. §4. 671   Heads, or banks of earth, for the confinement of water in artificial lakes or ponds.

?a1425—1814(Hide quotations)


 b. A body of water kept at a particular height, esp. in order to provide a supply at sufficient pressure for a mill, turbine, etc.; the height of such a body of water, as a measure of the resulting pressure; (hence) pressure expressed in terms of the height of water that would produce it (cf. pressure head n. 1; see also Phrases 3q(a)). Frequently in head of water.velocity head: see the first element.

1677   R. Plot Nat. Hist. Oxford-shire ix. 233   Lock-gates put down between every two of them..which will keep a head of water.
1724   D. Defoe Tour Great Brit. I. iii. 16   Here is a very large Pond, or Lake of Water, kept up to an Head, by a strong Battre d' eau, or Dam.
1791   R. Mylne 2nd Rep. Navigation Thames 15   Millers..working their Heads of Water in a spendthrift way.
1832   Examiner 289/1   He has dammed the stream to give it head.
1884   A. Daniell Text-bk. Princ. Physics xi. 276   We may say that the velocity-head and the pressure-head are together equal to the total head.
1907   H. Brown Irrigation vi. 120   A pressure due to 6¾ feet head of water.
1943   E. H. Lewitt Thermodynamics applied to Heat Engines (ed. 3) vi. 139   Water at 15° C. is injected under a constant head of 500 ft.
1986   E. Hall in A. Limon et al. Home Owner Man. (ed. 2) iii. v. 383   The cold water storage cistern is not sufficiently high above the shower sprinkler to provide the minimum 3ft (900mm) head of pressure.
2008   M. Kay Pract. Hydraulics (ed. 2) iv. 96   Atmospheric pressure drives a siphon and the absolute limit is 10 m head of water.

1677—2008(Hide quotations)


 c. Founding. A narrow vertical channel at the top of a mould acting as a reservoir to feed a casting as it cools and contracts, and to add to the pressure on the metal so as to inhibit porosity; a sink-head or riser (riser n. 10). Also: the solid remnant of this reservoir on a cast object.Recorded earliest in deadhead n.1 2a.feed, feeding-, sink-head, etc.: see the first element.

1838   Penny Cycl. X. 386/2   What is called a dead head is left at the upper and smaller or mouth end of the gun, which presses the metal down, and prevents its becoming porous as it settles and cools.
1854   Encycl. Brit. VI. 183/1   The metal..is conveyed by a gutter formed of sand to the gun-mould, into which the melted metal falls through the open end of the head.
1867   W. Papworth Gwilt's Encycl. Archit. (rev. ed.) ii. iii. 693   Cannon, pipes, columns, &c., are stronger when cast in a vertical than in a horizontal position, and stronger still when provided with a head or additional length.
1920   J. G. Horner Pract. Iron Founding (ed. 4) x. 209   The employer grudges the cost of cutting off the head, and maybe thinks that it is a moulder's fad, especially when he learns that there are shops in which cylinders are cast without heads.
1922   J. H. Hall Steel Foundry (ed. 2) viii. 261   As the heads are very much higher than the casting, they are called upon to feed metal only horizontally.
1996   S. C. Black et al. Princ. Engin. Manuf. (ed. 3) ii. 21   The mould may be provided with a long neck to give a head of metal which will provide both a reservoir of hot metal and a small pressure head to help eliminate shrinkage.

1838—1996(Hide quotations)


 44. Mining. An underground passage in a mine; a drift (drift n. 15). Cf. heading n. 13. Now rare.

1486   Charter 15 May in Yorks. Archaeol. Jrnl. (1893) 12 236   [They shall keep] unthyreled a ribbe called in to waste with due purgyng and clensyng of the seid myne and in dryffyng any depe hed into other with poste and thyrle at the water may lyghtly avoid.
1662   Dr. Power in T. Birch Hist. Royal Soc. (1756) I. 134   If a Pistol be shot off in a head remote from the eye of a pit, it will give but a little report.
1798   New Ann. Reg. 1797 Principal Occurr. 143/2   Going down this pit, the workmen came to a head or way, along which they proceeded until they came to another pit.
1894   Times 15 Aug. 13/3   He knew that gas existed in one of the heads, and fences were placed there to indicate that it was dangerous.
1908   Trans. Inst. Mining Engineers 34 356   At this point it was necessary to drive a head to the water-pit.
1947   Ann. Rep. Under Secretary for Mines, Queensland 1942–5 99/1   At 20 ft. in this drive a head was cut showing a bunch of spar carrying a little tin.

1486—1947(Hide quotations)


45. A tidal bore (bore n.3 2). Also more fully tide head. Obsolete.

1570   R. Tarlton Disc. Fluds Bedford Shire (single sheet)    At twelue a clock at night, It [sc. the rushing river] flowde with such a hed.
a1667   P. Mundy Trav. (1907) I. p. xix   This bore or tide head comes sodainely many foote high like great rouling feathering Waves.
1807   R. Southey Lett. from Eng. III. lxxvi. 380   The tide [in the River Parrot] instead of rising gradually, flows in in a head.
1854   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 15 5   [The] river came down with a ‘head’ similar to the tidal phenomenon on the Severn.
1908   Nature Notes 19 209   A dead starfish is sometimes carried far up the Bay [sc. Morecambe Bay] by the tide head which in places resembles a mill race.

1570—1908(Hide quotations)


46. Hunting. A sudden sharp change of direction by a hunted animal. Cf. heading n. 3. Obsolete.  [Compare French faire tête, e.g. in le cerf fait tête aux chiens the stag turns to resist the hounds.]

1607   E. Topsell Hist. Foure-footed Beastes 264   The wandring Hares..making heads vpon the plain ground, to the confusion of the Dogs.
1796   Sporting Mag. Feb. 231/2   [The fox] went away for Bull's Wood—then to Hammond's groves—made a head, and came to Thorpe Wood.
1798   Sporting Mag. 11 3   After much manœuvring, heads and doubles, as well as equally good racing in view, she [sc. the hare] was killed in the rickyard of the Sun Inn.
1804   Sporting Mag. Jan. 167/2   We have had an uncommon display of views, heads, turns, doubles; baying, and soiling, but not a burst of sufficient duration to set even a half-bred horse a blowing.

1607—1804(Hide quotations)


 47. Nautical. Any of various parts of an anchor (see quots.); (now usually) spec. the part furthest from the crown (crown n. 28d) and arms.

1622   R. Hawkins Observ. Voiage South Sea xxxvi. 88   Then armed we all the Halser round about..and likewise the shanke of the Anchor, and the head.
1706   Phillips's New World of Words (new ed.)    Head of an Anchor, the Shank or longest part of it.
1708   Sea-dict. in Mil. Dict. (ed. 3)    The Head of the Anchor; is that Part in which the Eye is, through which the Ring passes.
1826   Trans. Soc. Arts 44 86   Through the head of the anchor k passes the ring l.
1920   Sci. Amer. 10 July 35 (caption)    The ‘dropping test’ on the head of the modern stockless anchor.
1972   Marine Engin./Log Nov. 90/2   It also includes a distinctive stock running through the anchor crown in the same plane as the anchor head.
2000   E. D. Smith & T. R. Moore Sailing Lang. 28   Head, the upper end of the shank.

1622—2000(Hide quotations)


 48. On a gate: the upright timber or post at the opposite end from the hinges and typically bearing the latch (cf. heel n.1 10f). Also: either of the two upright pieces at the ends of a hurdle (hurdle n. 1a). Now rare.

a1642   H. Best Farming & Memorandum Bks. (1984) 17   To a barre [= hurdle] belongeth two heads..into which the 4 spelles are to bee putte.
1795   Life John Metcalf 22   Confound thee! thou always goes to the gate heel, instead of the head.
1801   T. N. Parker Ess. Gates & Wickets 34   For a swing gate the latch should be placed as nearly as possible to the middle part of the head.
1841   Farmers' Cabinet 15 Feb. 233   The head of one hurdle is brought forward, so as to lap, or pass a little beyond that of another.
1854   Jrnl. Royal Agric. Soc. 15 ii. 251   The head, heel, and top rail of a gate should be of oak.
1908   Country Life 29 Aug. 281/2   The square..closes tightly over the ‘closing style’, or head of the gate.
1939   H. J. Massingham Country Relics iii. iv. 67   The tomahawk made the mortise hole in the head of the hurdle and the ‘nail-bit’ or lengthening-bit holed the rails of the hurdle.
1969   Queensland Agric. Jrnl. 95 13/2   A second timber upright..is bolted..to the other end of the diagonal support to form the head of the gate.

a1642—1969(Hide quotations)


49. Building. A roof tile of half the usual length, used at the eaves; = head tile n. (a) at Compounds 4. Obsolete.

1703   R. Neve City & Countrey Purchaser 165   Heads,..a Term used by Bricklayers, by which they mean ½ a Tile in length, but to the full breadth of a Tile; these they use to lay at the Eaves of a Roof.
1887   G. O. Garnsey Amer. Gloss. Archit. Terms   Heads, tile or slate laid at the eaves.

1703—1887(Hide quotations)

 50. Curling and Bowls.

 a. A session of play in which all the stones or bowls are delivered from one particular end of the rink or green; = end n. 3d. Now rare.

1828   Descriptive & Hist. Sketch Curling 47   Head, (probably a corruption of heat,) that portion of the game in which both parties play all their stones once.
1877   Encycl. Brit. VI. 713   All [curling] matches to be of a certain number of heads.
1893   Laws Bowls (Sc. Bowling Assoc.) in H. J. Dingley Touchers & Rubs 96   The mat shall not be moved till the head is finished.
1958   Everyman's Encycl. IV. 186/1   A game [of curling] consists of a number of ‘heads’ or ends.
1965   Times 19 Aug. 4   Every head remained in jeopardy until the last bowl came to a stop.

1828—1965(Hide quotations)


 b. The (typically closely grouped) collection of stones or bowls which remain in play at any point of a game; (also) the position or area in which these are concentrated.

1884   D. Brown in J. Taylor Curling 208   Coming with something like the velocity of a cannon ball, it not only broke up the head, but sent the stone it struck first into a thousand pieces.
1925   Times 15 Jan. 17/6   At the start the game seems easy, but as ‘the head’ round the mark fills up with stones, more and more skill is required.
1954   Cairns (Austral.) Post 30 June 3   Shaw experienced great difficulty in holding his bowls back, consistently running through the head.
1986   Bowls Internat. July 39/1   You must get as many bowls in the head as you can.
2009   Scotsman (Nexis) 9 Dec.   Norway cleared out some Scottish stones in the ninth to score one. In the tenth, Murdoch..looked at the head, decided the shot was not on, and conceded.

1884—2009(Hide quotations)


51. Mining. In plural. In the process of mechanical concentration: the purest ore, which is the first to separate. Cf. head-tin n. at Compounds 4, heading n. 15. Obsolete.

1832   Trans. Royal Geol. Soc. Cornwall 4 149   Its contents are then divided into three or four parts according to the quality of the ore: these divisions are denominated heads, first middle heads, second middle heads, and tails; the heads or richest part, being nearest the head of the buddle.
1858   Jrnl. Soc. Arts 30 Apr. 374/2   The heads, after being subjected to washing in a hand buddle, are passed to the dolly-tub.
1879   Cassell's Techn. Educator (new ed.) III. 98   The rack or frame..consists of a long table on a slight incline down which the slimes are carried by a gentle stream of water... The purest ore called ‘heads’ collects at the upper part of the table.

1832—1879(Hide quotations)


52. The portion of the carapace of the hawksbill turtle ( Eretmochelys imbricata) that comprises the (usually thirteen) larger plates of tortoiseshell, esp. as an item for trade. Cf. foot n. 15. Obsolete.

1839   D. Cargill Diary 31 July (1977) 146   The king & his son sent a large hog & three heads of tortoise-shell as a present to the Capn.
1890   C. Erskine Twenty Years before Mast (1896) xiv. 204   He gave me..twenty dollars for a head of tortoise-shell.
1900   J. Gaggin Among Man-eaters 140   This meant so many head of shell... A head consists of the thirteen plates of tortoiseshell forming the outward shell of the hawksbill.
1911   Philippine Jrnl. Sci. Ser. D 6 293   All of the plates together are known as a ‘head’ of shell, and tortoise-shell nearly always is sold by the ‘head’.

1839—1911(Hide quotations)

 VII. Uses arising from or associated with particular phrasal or verbal constructions.

 53. A result, an outcome; a conclusion, a culmination; a pitch or peak of intensity, force, etc., typically attained gradually. In later use: esp. a situation where crucial issues must be resolved or addressed, a critical point. Chiefly in various verbal phrases, as to draw to a head , to grow to a head . See also to bring to a head at Phrases 4b, to come to a head at Phrases 4c, to gather to a head at gather v. 19b.  [With reference to undesirable developments often with allusion to sense 19a.]

1340   Ayenbite (1866) 183 (MED)   He yefþ red huerby me comþ to guode heauede [Fr. a bon chief] and to guode ende of þet me nimþ an hand.
1579   S. Gosson Schoole of Abuse f. 13v   Sith these abuses are growne to heade, and sinne so ripe.
a1599   Spenser View State Ireland 103 in J. Ware Two Hist. Ireland (1633)    To keepe them from growing unto such a head.
1606   Bp. J. Hall Arte Diuine Medit. xxiii. 116   There (which is the heade of all thy felicitie) thine eyes shall see him whom now thine heart longeth for.
1658   J. Owen Of Temptation ii. 23   The season wherein it [sc. temptation] growes to a head.
1678   A. Littleton Linguæ Latinæ Liber Dictionarius (at cited word)   To draw to a head, or to sum up, recapitulor, in summam colligo.
1749   J. Cleland Mem. Woman of Pleasure II. 88   Now all the impressions of burning desire,..ripen'd by the heat of this exercise, and collecting to a head, throb'd and agitated me with insupportable irritations.
1763   J. Wesley Serm. Reformation Manners 14   Vice is risen to such an head, that it is impossible to suppress it.
1824   T. Carlyle tr. Goethe Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship I. i. vi. 30   Let us hear how your taste for the theatre gradually reached a head.
1888   R. F. Horton Inspiration & Bible (1889) vi. 170   But it is time to draw to a head this somewhat lengthened discussion.
1904   T. Longueville Adventures James II i. 7   Affairs had got to such a head that the imminence of severe fighting in the midland counties became highly probable.
1921   Freeman 28 Sept. 59/2   Propaganda and resentment drew to a head during the general revolutionary movement of last year.
1962   D. M. Lang Mod. Hist. Soviet Georgia viii. 177   Matters reached a head in 1908, when the Russian Exarch of Georgia..was murdered.
2005   Maisonneuve (Canada) Feb. 4/1   George W. Bush is a reckoner, someone who drives things to a head.

1340—2005(Hide quotations)


54. A body of people gathered; a force raised, esp. in insurrection or revolt. See also to make a head at Phrases 4k(b). Obsolete.In quots. 1590, 1598 perhaps: a standard or similar object around which troops may gather.

▸ 1381   in R. H. Robbins Hist. Poems 14th & 15th Cent. (1959) 55 (MED)   Takeþ wiþ ȝow Iohan Trewman and alle hijs felawes and no mo, and loke schappe ȝou to on heued and no mo.
c1500   Three Kings' Sons (1895) 27   [They] haue so many noble lordes of their lynage, wherof they might full lightly fynde a suffisaunt hede.
1590   L. Lloyd Consent of Time 302   After twise or thrice good successe had against the Arabians and the Saracens, they gathered together vnder a head at Tangrolipix.
1598   Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 i. iii. 278   To saue our heads by raising of a head.  
1631   W. Gouge Gods Three Arrowes i. §69. 115   Korah..impudently gathered an head against Moses and Aaron.
1661   S. Pepys Diary 8 Jan. (1970) II. 8   Some talk today of a head of Fanatiques that doth appear about Barnett.
1781   G. Washington Let. 27 Mar. in Writings (1891) IX. 195   They cannot draw a head of men together as suddenly as their exigencies may require.

1381—1781(Hide quotations)


55. Forward momentum; headway, progress. Also: advance against an opposing force. Obsolete.Earliest attested in to get head, and chiefly in various verbal phrases: see also to keep head against at Phrases 4g(a), to make head against at Phrases 4k(a).to gather head: see gather v. 9.

1577   R. Holinshed Chron. II. 1861/1   It will bee too soone perceyued though happily too late to stoppe the breache, when the floud hath gote head, and once wonne passage through the banke.
1604   Shakespeare Hamlet iv. v. 99   Young Laertes in a riotous head Ore-beares your Officers.  
1662   R. Mathews Unlearned Alchymist (new ed.) §31. 26   If one Fever have got head before this Pill be taken.
1680   H. More Apocalypsis Apocalypseos 209   The ancient zeal..will be much relaxated, and wickedness will get head again.
1709   D. Defoe in State Brit. Nation 5 Apr. sig. A3v   Had their Rabble got a little more Head, we might have come again into the laudable Practice of cutting of Throats, and cold Blood Murthers.
1762   London Chron. 11 Dec. 573/2   The fire having gained head before the alarm was given, the master of the house thought of nothing but saving his wife.
1806   J. Beresford Miseries Human Life I. i. 3   This ‘gypsy-jargon’..Which is gaining head upon us every hour.
1866   I. N. Arnold Hist. A. Lincoln xix. 434   There was..a riot in Boston, but it was so promptly met, as to gain no considerable head.
1926   T. E. Lawrence Seven Pillars (subscribers' ed.) civ. 553   When a desire gained head, I used to strive until I had just to open my hand and take it.

1577—1926(Hide quotations)


 56. Freedom of action or manoeuvre. See also earlier to give (a horse) his (also her, its, etc.) head at Phrases 4e(b), to take head (see Phrases 4p(a)(ii)).

1804   E. A. Le Noir Village Anecd. II. 296   No persons hold so tight a curb, as those who have felt the inconvenience of having had too much head.
1849   A. Jackson Tints from Amateur's Palette 29   The horses..ask, as plainly as they can for a little more ‘head’.
1862   S. Bowles Let. 7 July in G. S. Merriam Life & Times (1885) I. xxix. 369   I only want society and a little more head to be quite content and happy.
2004   Australian (Nexis) 5 Nov. 36   When I went to slip her a bit more head, she didn't find much for four or five strides.

1804—2004(Hide quotations)



 P1. Preceded by a preposition or prepositional phrase.

 a. above one's head: see above adv., prep., n., and adj. Phrases 7.


 b. Rugby Football. against the (loose) head : (with reference to winning a scrum) despite the opposing team holding the advantage by having the put-in. Cf. to win a tight head at tight adj., adv., and n.2 Compounds 3.With reference to the fact that the loose head of the team putting in would be expected to help the hooker gain possession of the ball: see loose head n. at loose adj., n.2, and adv. Special uses 2.

1953   Manch. Guardian 31 Dec. 8/2   By now the New Zealanders were winning the scrums fairly often against the loose head as well as with it.
1958   Times 2 Jan. 10/1   Hung..struck like a cobra to get the ball against the head.
1988   Rugby World & Post Nov. 37/1   Gloucester's front-row stood up well to the confrontation and hooker Dunn took two strikes against the head while conceding none.
2012   Herald Express (Torquay) (Nexis) 8 Mar. 111   The scrum won a ball against the head to make it 10-3 at the break.

1953—2012(Hide quotations)


 c. at the head of: see sense 35.

 d. by (also down by) the head .

 (a) Nautical. Of a ship: with the front or bows lower in the water than the stern, typically due to being unevenly loaded. Frequently with an expression of extent, as too much by the head, etc. Cf. sense 21b, (down) by the stern at stern n.3 2b.

1662   T. Allin Jrnl. 30 June (1939) (modernized text) I. 92   He..would make his ship sail better, being too much by the head; but proved still the drag of the fleet.
1694   T. Phillips Jrnl. Voy. in Churchill's Coll. Voy. (1732) VI. 230/2   We fill'd all the empty buts we had in the hold with salt water, and brought her somewhat more by the head.
1762   C. F. Noble Voy. E. Indies 329   Finding the ship to..lie very dead in the water, occasioned by her being a great deal too much by the head.
1836   R. B. Paul Jrnl. Tour to Moscow xv. 186   She was a fat plethoric looking boat, so much down by the head, that she put me in mind of a man about to fall forward on his nose.
1874   W. M. Davis Nimrod of Sea xviii. 208   As we were a little down by the head, we brought from the forehatch ten casks of water, and rolled them aft.
1914   Sat. Evening Post 11 July 6/1   To Kent it was becoming more and more evident that she [sc. the ship] was down by the head.
1994   A. Seligman Slope of Wind (1998) xxv. 185   If she was too much by the head, she'd be a pig to steer.

1662—1994(Hide quotations)


 (b) colloquial (orig. Nautical). Originally: †in a state of drunkenness or intoxication (obsolete). Later: mentally unbalanced, crazy. Now rare.

1708   D. Defoe Rev. State Brit. Nation 8 June 170   [He] runs forward, being as the Sailors call too much by the Head, and over sets Sir William's Chair and all, and falls upon him.
1732   Proc. Old Bailey 14 Jan. 62/1   I had been drinking frequently, and I may say heartily, in the City of London, so that I was got a little too much by the Head.
1792   Bee 14 Nov. 62   Will Gasket did not fetch the playhouse with the rest of the squadron. He had got a little by the head.
1849   Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. Mar. 326/1   He kept on talking and smiling, till he could walk off without seeming as if he'd got his sabre betwixt his feet; but I fancied him a little down by the head when he did go.
1860   Times 17 Dec. 10/5   He said he was a little by the head, but not drunk.
a1941   in A. Brown Shadows & Cypress (2000) 41   She's a-little-by-the-head, so it hain't no wonder she done what she did.

1708—a1941(Hide quotations)


 e. in the head of: see sense 35.


 f. in spite of a person's head (formerly also †spite of a person's head ): in spite of, or in defiance of, a person. Cf. earlier maugre a person's head at maugre prep. 2. Now rare (archaic in later use).

?a1475   Ludus Coventriae (1922) 368 (MED)   The disciplis..makyn..this merthe in spyth of oure hed.
?1533   Tyndale Expos. Mathew (v) f. xlvv   To serue their ennemyes and to obeye their cruelnesse and tyrannye spyte of their heedes in nede and necessite.
1569   R. Grafton Chron. II. 114   He gaue them all to the French men in spight of their heades.
1905   C. Housman Life Sir Aglovale de Galis x. 100   I cannot allow your presumption that therefore you may riot like a rascal knave in spite of my head.

?a1475—1905(Hide quotations)


(a) of one's own head : of one's own accord; = on one's own head at Phrases 1i(b). Obsolete.

a1393   Gower Confessio Amantis (Fairf.) ii. l. 2066 (MED)   Ne feigned I semblant ne chiere To wite or axe of his matiere..Bot if he wolde axe eny red Al onlich of his oghne hed.
1420   in H. Ellis Orig. Lett. Eng. Hist. (1846) 3rd Ser. I. 69   I of myn owne heuesde have wryte vn to hym a lettre.
1489  (a1380)    J. Barbour Bruce (Adv.) ii. 121   Tak him as off yine awyne hewid As I had gevyn yar-to na reid.
1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry VIII f. xxvij   The master carpenter would woorke all of his awne hedde without counsayll.
a1625   H. Finch Law (1627) ii. xviii. 181   He that entreth into land of his owne head, and receiueth the profits of it.
1687   A. Wood Life & Times (1894) III. 220   The bishop..sent it of his owne head.
1775   R. B. Sheridan Rivals v. iii. 93   It [sc. the pistol] may go off of its own head.
1800   T. Jefferson Let. 18 Jan. in Papers (2004) XXXI. 321   I do not propose to give you all this trouble merely of my own head. That would be arrogance.
1831   C. Lamb in Englishman's Mag. Oct. 137   He might have occasionally have escorted a party of ladies..that were going in; but he never went in of his own head.
1872   Law Times Rep. 19 Oct. 247/1   If he had done it of his own head.., but without the knowledge of the real plaintiff,..then it would be barratry.

a1393—1872(Hide quotations)

 (b) of the first head.

 (i) Hunting. Of a male deer: that has reached the age, typically five years, when the antlers are first developed. Cf. sense 6, buck n.1 1b. Now rare.

c1425   Twiti Venery (Vesp. B.xii) 151   The vj yere a hert at the fyrst hed..alleway we calle of the fyrst hed tyl that he be of x of the lasse.
1486   Bk. St. Albans sig. eiiijv   Robucke of the first hede he is at the iiij. yere.
1575   G. Gascoigne Noble Arte Venerie lxxix. 236   A Bucke is called the first yeare a Fawne,..the fifth a Bucke of the first head, and the sixth a Bucke.
1678   E. Howard Man of Newmarket i. 9   Such wilde ones..who burst out like Bucks of the first head.
1774   O. Goldsmith Hist. Earth III. 128   The buck is..called..the fifth [year], a buck of the first head.
1823   Scott St. Ronan's Well III. v. 125   But here is my lord, just upon us like a stag of the first head.
1854   W. H. Ainsworth Flitch of Bacon iv. iii. 231   Wherever a place can be found for it, hangs the antlered skull of a great stag of the first head.
1921   E. Step Animal Life Brit. Isles 132   The fifth year shows further advance along the same lines, and the animal becomes known as a buck of the first head.

c1425—1921(Hide quotations)


 (ii) figurative. Of a person (usually a man):  (a) recently ennobled or raised in rank, parvenu;  (b) that has only recently come to adulthood; esp. displaying the vigour, high spirits, immaturity, etc., considered typical of that age (esp. in buck of the first head; cf. buck n.1 2b);  (c) unsurpassed, out-and-out; = of the first water at water n. Phrases 1e. Now chiefly in historical contexts.

1509   A. Barclay Brant's Shyp of Folys (Pynson) f. xix   A fox furred Jentelman: of the fyrst yere or hede.
?1520   A. Barclay tr. Sallust Cron. Warre agaynst Iugurth Prol. f. v   Gentylmen of ye first heed which were wont to preuent auncyent noblemen & ascende vnto vertu, & nobles, by vertuous maners.
1583   Sir T. Smith's De Republica Anglorum xx. 28   Such men are called sometime in scorne gentlemen of the first head.
a1627   H. Shirley Martyr'd Souldier (1638) v. sig. H3   The young fellowes..will runne into the parke of Matrimony at sixteene: are Bucks of the first head at eighteene.
a1631   J. Downe Amulet 16 in Certaine Treat. (1633)    Precedencie is any mans rather then the Ministers: euery Mammonist, euery younger brother, euery vpstart of the first head must haue the place from vs.
a1637   B. Jonson Magnetick Lady ii. iii. 23 in Wks. (1640) III   A Lady O' the first head I'ld have her.
1663   F. B. Vercingetorixa 3   [She] was to England come to wed A City-Chick of the first Head.
1771   Town & Country Mag. Mar. 150/2   Samon, notwithstanding his gown, threw off all reserve, and was a buck of the first head in the Garden.
1785   Town & Country Mag. Feb. 96/1   Alexander Allcant is a hypocrite of the first head, as you will soon perceive.
1835   London Lit. Gaz. 14 Mar. 164/3   He is a bibliomaniac and pedant of the first head.
1852   Southern Lit. Messenger Dec. 753/1   Tom Edmundson was a buck of the first head—gay, witty, dashing, vain, proud, handsome and volatile.
1895   All Year Round 16 Feb. 159/1   He..speedily gained admittance to many of the fashionable clubs... Nobody could deny that he was a buck of the first head.
1954   G. Heyer Toll-gate xv. 236   He's a Bartholomew baby, and thinks himself a buck of the first head.
1981   D. Chester French Slippers i. 25   Anyone with the least discernment could see at a glance that Lord du Vallon is to be trusted. A gentleman of the first head, obviously.
2012   S. Busbee Desire becomes Her v. 97   The Crown was far too respectable and staid to appeal to two gentlemen who considered themselves bucks of the first head.

1509—2012(Hide quotations)


 h. colloquial. off one's head : out of one's mind or wits, deranged, crazy; (in later use also) intoxicated, esp. by drugs (cf. off one's face at face n. Phrases 7).

1842   T. Hood Turtles in New Monthly Mag. June 273   He was ‘off his head’.
1872   W. Black Strange Adventures Phaeton xiii. 177   He is off his head: he does not know what he says.
a1884   M. Pattison Mem. (1885) 156   One poor girl went off her head in the midst of all.
1922   S. Anderson Winesburg Ohio 207   He had heard the old man spoken of as a little off his head.
1993   J. Green It: Sex since Sixties 142   We were both on E and both really off our heads and we both rolled around my bed for an hour and a half.
2000   I. Rankin Beggars Banquet (2002) 95   They told me I was off my head, said I was potty.
2011   Daily Tel. 18 July 18/5   He got off his head on drugs and alcohol, and then swung from the plinth dedicated to ‘The Glorious Dead’.

1842—2011(Hide quotations)

 (a) on a person's head .  [After post-classical Latin in caput eius onto his head, onto her head (Vulgate).]

 (i) Of a misfortune, curse, blessing, etc.: directed towards a person; so as to affect a person; on a person.

OE   King Ælfred tr. Psalms (Paris) (2001) vii. 16   Gehweorfe his sar on his heafod [L. in caput eius], and on his brægn astige his unriht.
1509   Kynge Rycharde Cuer du Lyon (de Worde) sig. E.vv   Many men weneth to greue other And on his heed [c1330 Auchinleck on himself; c1450 BL Add. 31042 one his ownne hede] falleth the fother.
?1550   W. Samuel Warnyng for Cittie of London   Ye brynge the curse of God, dayly on your heade.
1581   J. Keltridge Two Serm. sig. B.iijv   Glorie is on his head, honour and renowne are a couering for that man.
1735   Pope Prol. to Satires in Wks. II. 340   The distant Threats of Vengeance on his head.
1793   H. M. Williams Lett. France IV. iv. 151   We..imprecate curses on their heads.
1845   C. G. Duffy in Spirit of Nation 31   Yes, this is their own work; and now their work be on their head!
1920   C. C. Dobie Ilya of Murom i. 17   He who revives us with drink, He who sustains us with bread,..Blessings be on his head!
2003   K. Daswani For Matrimonial Purposes (U.K. ed.) 92   She put a curse on your head that your first-born would never marry.

OE—2003(Hide quotations)


 (ii) So as to be the responsibility of a person; weighing on a person.

a1425  (c1395)    Bible (Wycliffite, L.V.) (Royal) (1850) Josh. ii. 19   The blood of hym schal be on his heed [a1382 E.V. into his hed, L. in caput eius], that goith out at the dore of thin hows.
1592   Arden of Feversham sig. Kv   My bloode be on his head that gaue the sentence.
a1616   Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor (1623) ii. i. 174   What hee gets more of her, then sharpe words, let it lye on my head .  
1869   E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest III. xii. 253   If Harold sinned, his guilt was on his own head.
1916   R. Kipling Let. 9 Nov. (1999) IV. 416   If I didn't do what I could to get him out I'd feel I had his blood on my head.
1984   M. Horowitz et al. Personality Styles & Brief Psychotherapy iv. 83   His death was on her head, and she had to feel guilty.

a1425—1984(Hide quotations)


 (iii) be it on a person's (own) head : let the person specified be held responsible for something, or accept any unpleasant consequences of a chosen course of action. Now chiefly in on your (also his, her, etc.) head be it .

1743   R. Pococke Descr. East I. iv. v. 182   When they promise it [sc. protection], they put their hands up to their turbants, as much as to say, Be it on their heads.
1822   ‘R. M'Chronicle’ Legends Scotl. I. 209   Very well, madam,..then be it on your own head.—My friends, remove the lady to the carriage.
1831   R. P. Smith Forsaken I. xvi. 190   ‘That will I answer for,’ replied Lindsay, astounded at his coolness. ‘Then on your head be it.’
1968   ‘O. Mills’ Sundry Fell Designs iv. 41   ‘Turnpenny asked me to do it.’ ‘Oh, well, on Turnpenny's head be it.’
1991   E. Barker O Caledonia (1992) xi. 148   And you won't like being here by yourself one bit. On your own head be it.
2001   G. Joseph Homegrown ii. 32   I told him, ‘On your head be it,’ but he doesn't want to listen.

1743—2001(Hide quotations)


 (b) on one's own head : by one's own decision, of one's own accord; on one's own account. Cf. of one's own head at Phrases 1g(a). Now rare.

a1425  (a1400)    Prick of Conscience (Galba & Harl.) (1863) l. 8874   Yhit wille I ymagyn, on myne awen hede, Ffor to gyf it a descripcion.
1563   Bp. J. Pilkington Burnynge of Paules Church sig. I.viiv   All such relygyous woorshyppinge of God, as manne deuises on hys owne heade, and is not taught in the holye Scrypture.
1595   W. Perkins Expos. Creed Apostles 292   Ioseph [of Arimathea]..doth it not on his owne head without leaue, but he goeth to Pilate and beggeth the body of Christ.
1656   J. Bramhall Replic. to Bishop of Chalcedon iii. 133   If the persons so banished will return on their own heads.
1744   W. Warburton Remarks Occas. Refl. v. 103   [He] could never, on his own Head, have thought of reducing an unruly People to Government on Maxims of Religion and Policy fundamentally opposite to all the Principles of Egyptian Wisdom.
1794   J. Impey Mod. Pleader 157   Mal-feasance, is when a man does something purposely on his own head, fancy, or humour, without any express agreement, implication, or requiring of law.
1840   Colonial Gaz. 5 Feb. 82/2   The new Secretary..has heard of Mr. Mothercountry's influence; and he is determined that he will act on his own head.
1894   F. B. Meyer Bells of Is 43   ‘Are you doing this on your own head?’ Richard asked. ‘Yes,’ said I; ‘I don't know who's to help me.’
1922   Southeastern Reporter 110 774/2   The defendant on his own head decided to remit to a great corporation the sum of $110,000 in taxes.

a1425—1922(Hide quotations)

(c) on head.

 (i) Precipitately, hastily; rashly, thoughtlessly; headlong. Also on a head. Cf. ahead adv. 1. Obsolete.to fly on head: see fly v.1 3a.

[a1325  (?c1300)    Northern Passion (Cambr. Gg.1.1) l. 944 (MED)   Pilat was aparti greuid, For þai speken in heuid.]
c1425   Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) ii. l. 4733 (MED)   As bolde as Baiard is, þe blynde, Þat cast no peril what wey þat he fynde, Riȝt so wil I stumble forþe on hede.
1557   Earl of Surrey et al. Songes & Sonettes (new ed.) f. 111   He that bluntly runnes on hed, And seeth not what the race shal be: Is like to bring a foole to bed.
1565   T. Cooper Thesaurus   Abruptum ingenium, a rashe braine that doth all things on heade.
1572   J. Bridges tr. R. Gwalther Hundred, Threescore & Fiftene Homelyes vppon Actes Apostles Ep. sig. C.4v   They shall..see howe you haue done nothing rashly, and on a head.

c1425—1572(Hide quotations)


 (ii) Straight forward; in or towards the front; = ahead adv. 2. Obsolete.

1575   G. Gascoigne Noble Arte Venerie lxi. 172   If she [sc. the hare] helde on head, then let him beate with his houndes still onwardes on bothe sides of the way.
1590   Spenser Muiopotmos 420   Some vngracious blast..perforce him [sc. the butterfly] droue on hed.
1672   H. Savile True Relation Engagem. with Dutch Fleet 4   Sir F. Holles in the Cambridge, came..on Head of us.
1687   tr. Rel. Late Embassy to Court of King of Siam 33   [The barges] of the Great Mandarins..were very fine, and were on head of us.
1736   Compl. Family-piece ii. i. 208   'Tis the nature of the Hart, when he is close pursued..to make forth on Head.

1575—1736(Hide quotations)


 (a) out of a person's head : from a person's mind, imagination, or invention. Often in the more emphatic form out of a person's own head . Frequently somewhat colloquial.

1548   G. Joye tr. A. Osiander Coniectures Ende of Worlde iv. sig. Fiij   When he speketh lyes, he speketh them oute of hys owne head [L. ex propriis].
1599   T. Bilson Effect Certaine Serm. 404   You tell a long and a foolish tale of death out of your owne heade.
1653   J. Bramhall Answer to M. de la Militiere 203   He that..denies a temporall Kingdom to give an eternall, doth not wrong us. This was out of your head.
1680   R. L'Estrange Narr. of Plot 17   He made Several Alterations..in the Epistle, out of his own head, after it was composed at the Presse.
1719   D. Defoe Farther Adventures Robinson Crusoe 280   It came from you, and not out of my own Head.
1820   Eclectic Rev. Sept. 164   All this, not being in Burton, we take it for granted is out of Mr. Keats's own head, as the children say.
1875   B. Jowett tr. Plato Dialogues (ed. 2) I. 288   Were not all these answers given out of his own head?
1919   Times 25 Nov. 15/5   He..drew scraggy animals out of his own head.
1991   J. Richardson Life of Picasso I. xxix. 455   He sat down and out of his head painted the head in without having seen Gertrude Stein again.
2003   M. Warnock in J. Baggini & J. Stangroom What Philosophers Think (2005) xv. 159   She had these amazing ideas which turned out to be very like Leibniz's.., but they seem to have come entirely out of her own head.

1548—2003(Hide quotations)


 (b) colloquial. out of one's head : = out of one's mind at mind n.1 20c.

1733   M. Shelton tr. M. Warren Epist. to Friend vi. 40   At Midnight he talked wild, and before Morning was quite out of his Head [L. obstupuit].
1764   Dialogue Late Declar. & Remonstr. Back-inhabitants Pennsylvania 4   Mr. Zealot, I believe, is out of his Head.
1817   Monthly Repository Feb. 91/1   ‘Surely that man is out of his head,’ was no uncommon exclamation, on hearing his vociferation and seeing the wildness of his gestures.
1878   H. James French Poets & Novelists 428   Pathelin pretends to be out of his head.
1902   C. E. Jefferson Quiet Hints Preachers xiii. 103   If they could not understand what was going on they..might think Christians out of their head.
1960   H. Gold Love & Like 207   He's banned from Manhattan clubs. Tried to play the Embers stoned out of his head.
1986   Globe & Mail (Toronto) (Nexis) 23 June c11   When they came to one of my recitals they sat there bored out of their heads.
2011   M. Carlson Christmas Shoppe x. 89   The rumor spread..that Matilda Honeycutt was out of her head—certifiably nuts.

1733—2011(Hide quotations)

 k. over a person's head .

 (i) literal. = overhead adv. 2a.a roof over one's head: see roof n. Phrases 1.

OE   tr. Vitas Patrum in B. Assmann Angelsächsische Homilien u. Heiligenleben (1889) 198   He cwæð, þæt he geseage up on heahnesse þære heofonan ane culfran flyceriende ofer his heafod.
c1400  (?c1390)    Sir Gawain & Green Knight (1940) l. 2217 (MED)   ‘Abyde,’ quoþ on, on þe bonke abouen ouer his hede.
1573   D. P. Certaine Rules Geogr. sig. Aiv   Imagine a poynt or pricke directly ouer your head, which is called Zenith.
1665   R. Boyle Occas. Refl. iv. ii. sig. Aa4v   Larks..hovering and singing a while over our Heads.
1752   J. Hill Gen. Nat. Hist. III. 421   We have the wild goose flying over our heads..in vast flocks.
1833   S. Smith Life & Writings Major Jack Downing 17   The balls were whistling over our heads.
1883   M. W. Hungerford Rossmoyne III. v. 156   You will have the roof burned over your head one of these dark nights.
1893   O. Schreiner Story Afr. Farm ii. i. 132   Some pale-green, hairy-leaved bushes..meet over our head.
1954   Coast to Coast 1953–4 1   He heard the chattering of blue jays and wattle-birds over his head.
1998   Skydiving Mar. 47 (advt.)    Over my head was the most beautiful rainbow colored Raven IV Reserve [parachute] you ever saw.
2008   J. Franzen in New Yorker 21 Apr. 96/3   I saw a tracer round cross the sky over our heads.

OE—2008(Hide quotations)


 (ii) Of an impending event, or an overwhelming or oppressive force: so as to constitute a threat or danger; (also) so as to be a source of dread or anxiety. Chiefly and earliest in to hang over (one's) head at hang v. 12b.Often as part of an extended metaphor referring to something (notionally) located physically overhead.

c1390   in C. Brown Relig. Lyrics 14th Cent. (1924) 146 (MED)   Þer nis non so stif ne stronge..Bi-hold what ouer hor hed con honge.
a1450  (c1410)    H. Lovelich Hist. Holy Grail xiii. l. 393   He preyde hem..That Neuere non of hem ne scholden fle, What Aventure that henge Ouer here hed.
1569   R. Grafton Chron. II. 2   The daungers hangyng ouer theyr heades.
a1677   T. Manton Serm. (1678) I. ii. 23   As long as this black Storm hangs over your head, and you know not how soon it will drop upon you, you cannot be accounted happy Men.
1710   Medley 6 Nov.   The Marquis d'Ancre frighted with the Storm that was gathering over his Head, often press'd his Wife to go back with him to Italy.
1763   O. Goldsmith Martial Rev. 128   His Prussian Majesty, all this while, had the terrible junction of the Russians with the Austrians and Imperialists hanging over his head.
1823   H. Lee Kruitzner 60   Such was the enemy that hung over the head of the unhappy Siegendorf!
1848   C. Brontë Let. 28 Feb. (2000) II. 35   Years are heavy on him, the sword of Damocles has long been hanging over his head.
1887   R. F. Burton tr. Arabian Nights' Entertainm.: Suppl. Nights III. dxlii. 100   Present Death hovereth over my head except I win my will.
1917   United Mine Workers Jrnl. 25 Oct. 6/2   [The coal miner] is today the most important factor in the great commercial and military crisis hovering over our head.
1992   Palm Beach (Florida) Post (Nexis) 21 Jan. d3   After Mattox retired in 1957 as a newspaper editor..he moved to West Palm Beach... ‘I didn't have a deadline over my head all the time,’ he said.
1994   Entertainm. Weekly 29 Apr. 42   The specter of the show entering syndication next fall looms over his head.

c1390—1994(Hide quotations)


 (i) In such a way as to ignore or discount the authority, prior claim, etc., of the person concerned; without consulting or informing the person affected.Used esp. with reference to promotion to a higher position, better job, etc., or (in early use) to commercial transactions (cf. to buy over a person's head at buy v. Phrases 3).

a1500   Consail & Teiching Vys Man (Cambr. Kk.1.5) in R. Girvan Ratis Raving & Other Early Scots Poems (1939) 77   A levand mannys benefyce,..Na our his hed to tak his land Desyr nocht.
1551   T. Lever Serm. xiiii. December (new ed.) sig. H.iii   They take one anothers ferme ouer their heades.
1630   R. Norton tr. W. Camden Hist. Princesse Elizabeth i. 74   [He] deuorcing his first wife, marryed ouer her head in her life time.
a1661   T. Fuller Worthies (1662) i. 18   The Younger being often brought over the head of the elder to be Principal.
1800   ‘Homo’ Considerations Present High Price Corn 20   Those frightful apprehensions, of having his farm purchased over his head, by some speculative character.
1822   M. Graham Jrnl. 25 Nov. in Captain's Wife (1993) 139   My house is let over my head to some persons who..have bribed the landlord to let it to them.
1887   Times 31 Oct. 9/3   It is no compliment..that an ex-diplomatist should be chosen for promotion over their heads.
1902   Chambers's Jrnl. Nov. 716/2   The traveller..finds himself called upon..to soften and explain away amenities which have been unwisely transmitted by letter, exchanged, as it were ‘over his head’.
1955   A. L. Rowse Diary 13 June (2003) 241   I wasn't best pleased when it was arranged over my head that I should drive her back.
1988   Sydney Morning Herald (Nexis) 6 July 1   Not only was it not done over my head, it was done with my complete co-operation.
2005   Independent 28 Nov. (.media section) 3/1   [He] finally drove Newland nuts by bringing in senior staff over his head.

a1500—2005(Hide quotations)


 (ii) orig. U.S. colloquial. to go over a person's head : to approach or consult a higher authority than the person affected, generally without consulting or informing him or her.

1909   Sat. Evening Post 2 Oct. 10/1   I put myself in Dutch by trying to go over your head.
1916   Rotarian July 47/2   That will make it meet the approval of Ned's directors and it will not look as if he is going over the head of his cashier.
1970   P. Berton National Dream v. i. 195   With Edgar thus disposed of, Walkem meant to go over Mackenzie's head to the Crown itself.
2006   C. Murray Murder in Samarkand x. 152   I even copied in Michael Jay on the correspondence. In fact, I seem to recall you complained I was going over your head.

1909—2006(Hide quotations)


 (c) Of a period of time or an (esp. unpleasant) experience: so as to elapse or pass by; finished with, endured; over, past. Cf. to pass over head at overhead adv. 4. Now chiefly North American regional.

1578   J. Lyly Euphues f. 63v   Appelles..would lette no day passe ouer his heade without a lyne, without some labour.
1675   Rutherford's Lett. (new ed.) iii. 56   When all these strokes are over your head, what will you say, to see your welbeloved.
1686   G. Burnet Lett. Present State Italy iii. 118   I have now another Month over my head since I writ last to you.
1755   A. Ramsay Epist. to J. Clerk 69   Now seventy years are o'er my head.
1832   C. Willard & W. Willard Let. 26 Aug. in Eng. Immigrant Voices (2000) 40   There was not a day went over our heads but what there was a quarrelling or a fighting.
1866   Every Sat. 27 Jan. 95/2   I could even now narrate the substance of the book, although at least fifteen years must have passed over my head since I read it .
1886   H. Smart Outsider I. ii. 26   Ere many more days were over her head!
a1908   E. Carpenter in Intermediate Sex (1908) App. 152   Years of the most racking mental agony have gone over my head without killing me.
1944   Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. No. 2. 34   The worst day and night I ever put over my head.
1971   Idaho State Jrnl. 28 Nov. d3/1   All the years that have passed over my head since then do not seem to have changed me much.

1578—1971(Hide quotations)


 (i) To such a depth of water, etc., that the head is submerged; so as to be completely submerged or immersed. Also figurative: deeply immersed or involved in something. Also over the head. See also over head and ears at Phrases 3e(a). Cf. overhead adv. 2b.

?1610   J. Fletcher Faithfull Shepheardesse ii. sig. D4v   This holy well..Hath power to change the forme of any creature, Being thrice dipt ouer the head, into [etc.].
1654   E. Leigh Syst. Divinity viii. viii. 665   Many in hotter climates at some times of the year cannot be plunged over the head in cold water without hazard of life or health.
1766   App. to 5th Edition of Dr. Brookes's Gen. Pract. Physic 79   The Patient is soon suffocated; as effectually, though more slowly, as if he was immersed over the Head in it.
1777   T. Campbell Philos. Surv. S. Ireland xxvii. 259   What artillery in all the magazines of wisdom can make any impression on ignorance, intrenched over the head in prejudice.
1829   H. L. Maw Jrnl. Passage from Pacific to Atlantic ix. 248   The boat having paid-off on striking the bank, he went over his head in the water.
1866   All Year Round 17 Nov. 448/2   The three men despaired of reaching the rope. The first was twice plunged over his head in the water.
1890   J. Martine Reminisc. 14 Parishes County of Haddington 124   The tub ‘couped’, and both lads were over the head in the water.
1920   Harper's Mag. Aug. 363/1   We have plunged over our heads into a sea of religious and spiritual curiosity.
1975   Field & Stream June 76/3   The next thing I knew I was in water over my head.
2010   E. Lockhart Real Live Boyfriends ix. 96   Then I was over my head in the bitter water, and Gideon was steering the boat around to pick me up.

?1610—2010(Hide quotations)


 (ii) colloquial (orig. U.S.). to be in over one's head : to be involved in something that is beyond one's capacity, or too difficult for one to deal with. Cf. out of one's depth at depth n. Phrases.

1888   H. Clews Twenty-eight Years Wall Street lix. 680   It was a Waterloo..for Jerome and his fellow bulls. They were in over their heads... They immediately threw up the sponge and the stock came down with a crash.
1900   M. G. Morrison Sea-farers 107   ‘I will give you five thousand dollars to start in an honest business.’.. ‘I'm in too deep. I'm in over my head... Can't you understand?’
1965   L. Roman P.S. I love You i. 30   You see, all through our marriage I'd been wondering if maybe I was in over my head.
2008   Vanity Fair Feb. 123/2   Indiana Jones gets in over his head and he can't handle it. It's only by sheer, last-second skill, or luck,..that he actually gets himself out of it.

1888—2008(Hide quotations)


 (e) Beyond a person's comprehension or intellectual capacity. Cf. above one's head at above adv., prep., n., and adj. Phrases 7.Originally as part of an extended metaphor of flight.

a1626   Bacon Advt. Holy Warre in Certaine Misc. Wks. (1629) 86   That Worke..flies too high ouer Mens Heads.
1791   W. Maxwell in J. Boswell Life Johnson anno 1770 I. 341   He [sc. Johnson] observed, that..polished periods and glittering sentences flew over the heads of the common people, without any impression upon their hearts.
1836   C. MacFarlane Bk. Table-talk I. lix. 297   He knew the danger of talking over the heads of his popular congregations, and thence arose his fondness for common sayings and proverbs.
1886   H. Smart Outsider II. ii. 20   Welstead quickly became cognizant that his wife was over his head.
1922   Industr. Managem. Sept. 139/1   The book-keeping system we use is quite over my head.
1977   Ebony Dec. 34   The academic material was completely over his head.
2006   K. Montgomery How Doctors Think vii. 118   The neuro stuff on scans was way over my head back then.

a1626—2006(Hide quotations)


 l. to a person's head : = to a person's face at face n. Phrases 4c. Formerly also †unto a person's head . Chiefly U.S. colloquial and English regional in later use.

1578   T. Garter Commody of Susanna sig. E.iij   Oh now thou lyest thou wicked man, vnto thy head I speake, And looke that God his vengeance will with shame vpon thee wreake.
1600   Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream i. i. 106   Demetrius, Ile auouch it to his heade, Made loue to Nedars daughter, Helena, And won her soule.  
1607   T. Rogers Faith, Doctr., & Relig. sig. ¶¶¶¶2   The..London Brethren tell K. Iames to his head, how the Subscription..is more then the Lawe requireth.
1680   C. Darby Bacchanalia Epil. 14   As if she wou'd Now tell you, to your Head, 'Tis you alone, But whom she's scorch't, disordred, and undone.
1724   T. Atkinson Diary 15 Mar. in Reg. Officers & Members Soc. Colonial Wars New Hampsh. (1907) 36   The Indian Sd he was a warrr & if the Govr Denyed it he would tell it to his head.
1759   R. Forster Let. 27 Aug. in Coll. towards Parochial Hist. Berks. (1783) 57   When they [sc. the inhabitants of Shefford] should say, I told him so to his face, they say, I told him so to his head.
a1825   R. Forby Vocab. E. Anglia (1830) (at cited word)   We say, ‘I told him so to his head’, not to his face, which is the usual phrase.
1866   Every Sat. 22 Dec. 745/2   If he asked you tenpence a pound for sirloin, and you thought that ninepence was a plenty for it, you would have no scruples about telling him so to his head.
1919   I. Zangwill Jinny the Carrier xiii. 582   That Christy Dolphin [i.e. Christadelphian] stuff..don't bring the peace of God, and Oi'll tell her sow to her head the next time she's at me to be a Jew!
1974   N. Shaw & T. Rosengarten All God's Dangers 163   I said, ‘Don't you hit me with that shovel’—told him to his head, didn't bite my tongue.
2009   J. Burditt Ones in 30 Rock (NBC TV script: shooting draft) 3rd Ser. Episode 19. 6   I love Jack so much, I don't know if I have the strength to tell him to his head.

1578—2009(Hide quotations)


(a) upon one's own head (occasionally also upon one's head ): = on one's own head at Phrases 1i(b). Obsolete.

1442   T. Bekington Let. in G. Williams Mem. Reign Henry VI (1872) II. 192 (MED)   His fals famed message that he dide..upon his owne hed, wheras..he was commaunded oonly to seke to Sr. Ro. Roos and to folowe his direction.
1454   T. Howes in Paston Lett. & Papers (2004) II. 106   I meovyd to hym vpon myn hed..that thanne it were a good maryage.
1549   Coverdale et al. tr. Erasmus Paraphr. Newe Test. II. Eph. i. f. ii   Not vpon myne owne head or by mennes Commissyon, but by the Autoritie and commaundemente of God the father.
1579   L. Tomson tr. J. Calvin Serm. Epist. S. Paule to Timothie & Titus 1/2   That he [sc. St. Paul] thrust not in himselfe, vppon his owne head, but that he was appointed of God.
1618   T. Taylor Christs Combate & Conquest 76   Whether you went by warrant, or vpon your owne head.
1679   Bp. J. Williams Impartial Consideration Speeches Five Jesuits 23   He did it upon his own head, and out of private Revenge.
1707   J. Freind Acct. Earl of Peterborow's Conduct in Spain 123   He had quitted the army in discontent and upon his own head.

1442—1707(Hide quotations)


 (b) upon a person's head : = on a person's head at Phrases 1i(a).

1553   Admon. Bishoppes sig. A.ii   An euerliuyng God that..wyl call all thynges into iudgement and to accompt and wyl render to euerye one his iust recompence vpon hys head.
a1616   Shakespeare Winter's Tale (1623) v. iii. 124   You Gods looke downe, And from your sacred Viols poure your graces Vpon my daughters head.  
1660   G. Wither Speculum Speculativum 53   The Doom..will without all peradventure come Upon your heads.
1799   C. B. Brown Ormond xxvi. 293   All our toils will thus be frustrated, and the ruin will finally redound upon our heads.
1820   H. Murray Hist. Acct. Discov. & Trav. in Asia I. i. viii. 388   The Gentoos..coolly observed, that the blood was upon his head, and that they..could not be responsible for his barbarous conduct.
1847   Sharpe's London Mag. 21 Aug. 262/2   If evil or disgrace should befall you or yours in consequence, upon your own head be it.
1871   Hist. Mag. July 70/1   The displeasure of the good ‘Manido’ is upon his head.
1912   E. M. House Philip Dru xii. 77   Be candid with me, for, if you are not, the recoil will be upon your own head.
1998   R. Newman Manners 223   As if he's riding away to certain death and this is a blessing upon his head.
2008   D. Liss Whiskey Rebels 485   If my fall brings about the ruin of the nation, it will be upon Hamilton's head.

1553—2008(Hide quotations)


(c) upon head: = on head at Phrases 1i(c). Also upon a head. Obsolete.

c1440  (?a1400)    Morte Arthure l. 261 (MED)   Thou countez no caas, ne castes no forthire Bot hurles furthe appon heuede, as thi herte thynkes.
a1470   Malory Morte Darthur (Winch. Coll. 13) (1990) II. 633   And thus, hastely and uppon hede..he sente for prynce Bodwyne.
1555   W. Waterman tr. J. Boemus Fardle of Facions i. iii. 36   Roilyng and rowmyng vpon heade, heather and thether.
1579   T. North tr. Plutarch Liues 162   So went Lucius vpon a head to present battell to the enemie.
1617   T. Taylor Davids Learning ix. 364   This is no bridle for thee, thou runst vpon head without rule or reynes of moderation and sobrietie.
1622   Bacon Hist. Raigne Henry VII 141   Rebells contrariwise runne vpon an Head together in confusion.

c1440—1622(Hide quotations)

 P2. Preceding an adverb or preposition.

 a. colloquial (orig. and chiefly British). to get one's head around and variants: to master or fully comprehend (a subject or fact), esp. despite initial difficulty or reluctance; (also) to come to terms with (a situation). Cf. to get to grips with at grip n.1 2a.

1922   Gem 15 July 18   Wait a minute, my boy. Let me get my head round it.
1947   S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal xxxiii. 205   You've simply got to keep all this dark till I can think it over and get my head around it.
1981   Aviation Week & Space Technol. (Nexis) 23 Feb. 59   Seitz predicted this work would be controversial, but said it is inevitable ‘because we're not building things that any one person can get his head around any more’.
1998   Independent 3 Aug. i. 4/2   Mr Forbes has had longer than most to get his head around the idea that the state-of-the-art plant is going to close. He was informed last Monday.
2012   ‘Gentle Author’ Spitalfields Life 259/2   So many have pegged out. I can't get my head round it. I suppose I'm next for the chop.

1922—2012(Hide quotations)


 b. British, Australian, and New Zealand colloquial. to do a person's head in : to confuse, annoy, or exasperate a person; to drive a person to distraction. Cf. to do in 3a at do v. Phrasal verbs 2, to do one's nut at nut n.1 12c.

[1967   Sun 22 Feb. 6/6   I did his head, I aggravated him.]
1972   G. Greer in Playboy Jan. 82/2   I don't think I'm going to sign another copy of a book in a bookstore for the rest of my life... It really used to do my head in, because people would buy the book just for the autograph.
1992   Guardian 10 Nov. 5/4   The trouble with selling coke is that it really does your head in.
1998   A. Wood EastEnders (BBC TV script) (O.E.D. Archive) Episode 602. 36   You'd better make up with her soon Bianca 'cos you're doing my head in.
2008   Sunday Herald (Glasgow) 2 Nov. (Mag.) 19   Those six-digit gas meter reading figures do my head in.

1972—2008(Hide quotations)

 c. colloquial.

 (a) to beat (also lick) a person's head off : to defeat a person easily or by a considerable margin. Now rare.

1780   T. Davies Mem. Life David Garrick II. xlvi. 244   Mr. Garrick used to say, that he would beat Barry's head off in telling all stories but Irish ones.
1855   Sporting Rev. Jan. 33   Sam informed his brother..that he could ‘lick their heads off’.
1856   G. L. H. in V. Dayrell Weeds from Isis 39   ‘Scroggins’ won the Rio Branco Derby, beating ‘Cauliflower's’ head off.
1880   Brentano's Monthly Dec. 246   Don't let W. G. read this. Alfred Mynn would have licked W. G.'s head off at single wicket.
1885   Jrnl. Educ. Jan. 49/1   A. would gain a scholarship at X. College, while B., who could beat A.'s head off at school, was rejected at Y. college.
1929   J. B. Booth London Town ix. 157   Market men..who periodically dropped in to state..that at balancing bushel baskets they could ‘lick Mullins' head off’.
1938   Times 27 May 7/1   He not only beat him, but beat his head off.
1948   Bradford (Pa.) Era 25 Sept. 3/2   West could win the next lead and beat his head off with hearts and clubs.

1780—1948(Hide quotations)


 (i) to —— a person's head off and variants: to —— until a person is exhausted, or to an unbearable or wearisome degree; (later also in weakened use) to —— with great vigour or intensity, at great length, etc.Esp. with verbs of speaking; cf. to talk the hind leg off a donkey at talk v. 10, to talk (someone's) ear off at talk v. 10(b).

1829   T. Hood in Mirror Lit., Amusem., & Instr. 5 Dec. 396/2   You'll powder both our heads off..with its puff.
1852   R. Bulwer Lytton School for Husbands I. vi. 146   That's the way with the whole sex, they'll talk a man's head off.
1894   G. B. Shaw Let. 3 Dec. (1965) I. 467   You could, at your worst, talk the heads off most of them.
1910   J. Farnol Broad Highway (1911) ii. ii. 234   He will be swearing your head off in the next ten minutes or so.
1947   Denton (Texas) Record-Chron. 3 Aug. ii. 8/3   You can get together with nutritionists and poultrymen and they'll argue your head off convincing you that [etc.].
2008   S. Venkatesh Gang Leader for Day ii. 53   As long as I didn't get too nosy..they talked my head off.

1829—2008(Hide quotations)


 (ii) to —— one's head off : to —— with great vigour or intensity, at great length, etc., esp. to the point of weariness or exhaustion. See also to eat its head off at eat v. 4b, to laugh one's head off at laugh v. Phrases 1l.

1840   Dickens Let. 26 Nov. (1969) II. 84   I have nearly written my head off this morning and am dismally stupid.
1872   M. Oliphant Mem. De Montalembert I. 29   In society in the evenings yawns his weary head off.
1890   C. C. Harrison Anglomaniacs ii. 79   What man wants to work his head off to lay up money, and then see a fool and profligate walk away with it?
1951   J. Cornish Provincials 11   As term progressed, Saturdays and Sundays..we would sit in our den..talking our heads off.
1985   J. Howker Nature of Beast i. 21   We spent this pretty miserable day..not talking much, just smoking our heads off.
2010   C. Grant Teenie ix. 91   Those girls look like straight-up groupies, screaming their heads off and trying to touch Greg.

1840—2010(Hide quotations)


 d. colloquial. head over: head over heels (in love). See Phrases 3i(b)(ii).

1921   E. Levison Eye Witness iv. 55   He's head over in love with Ruth—and she with him.
1924   J. Galsworthy White Monkey ii. vi. 158   They were head over—the family feud stopped that [marriage].
2004   Kirkus Rev. (Nexis) 1 Mar.   Billie falls head-over in love with Jay, a gorgeous slam poet.

1921—2004(Hide quotations)


 (a) to put (also bring, lay, set, etc.) their (also our, your) heads together : to consider a matter jointly, to consult or take counsel with one another, to confer.

c1425   in Norfolk Archaeol. (1864) 6 226 (MED)   Siris, ȝe shal putte ȝoure heedis to gidere & chese þre burgeisis of þis constabilrie of þe moost sufficient.
c1430  (c1380)    Chaucer Parl. Fowls (Cambr. Gg.4.27) (1871) l. 554   The watyr foulis han here hedis leid To gedere..They seydyn sothly al be on assent How that [etc.].
c1460  (?c1400)    Tale of Beryn l. 3961   Hir hedis they leyd to-gidir & begon to tell In what maner the vymmen shuld be answerid.
a1529   J. Skelton Magnyfycence (?1530) sig. Biiiv   Nay let vs our heddes togyder cast.
1544   J. Bale Brefe Chron. Syr I. Oldecastell f. 42   They drewe theyr heades togyther and at the last consented to vse an other practyse.
1623   Bp. J. Hall Contempl. VII. O.T. xix. 247   They may call a Councell of warre, and lay their heads together.
1682   J. Bunyan Holy War 122   And there lay their heads together, and there consult of matters.  
1730   T. Cooke Bays Misc. 16   As for the first [line], let all the Commentators in Europe set their Heads together, and ring..many Changes upon it.
1761   A. Murphy All in Wrong i. 17   Now are they putting their wise heads together to thwart all my schemes of happiness.
1806   J. Beresford Miseries Human Life I. v. 98   Those gossiping scenes of a play, in which the lacqueys, and waiting-maids lay their heads together.
1876   M. Reid Flag of Distress (1879) lviii. 291   The piratical crew bring their heads together, to deliberate about the final step.
1886   S. Baring-Gould Court Royal I. i. 17   We'll put heads together and consider what is to be done.
1901   R. N. Bain tr. M. Jokai Halil the Pedlar iv. 73   Not unless the Janissaries, or the Debejis, or the Bostanjis lay their heads together and agree to depose the Sultan.
1934   Z. Grey Code of West xii. 210   Let's get our heads together and plan the great razoo.
1998   Afr. News (Nexis) 25 Sept.   SADC, the king, all parties in Lesotho, as well as civic society need to bring their heads together to find an interim solution for Lesotho.
2011   P. R. Naylor Incredibly Alice xxix. 260   A bunch of seniors put their heads together and come up with some big joke.

c1425—2011(Hide quotations)


 (b) to bang (also knock) heads together and variants: to force the parties involved in a (typically petty or meaningless) dispute to stop arguing and behave in a sensible manner; to enforce cooperation.In some early quots. used more literally, with (the threat of) physical force being employed.

a1652   R. Brome Court Begger iii. sig. Q3v, in Five New Playes (1653)    Pray hold your peace. I'le jowle your heads together, and so beat ton with tother else.
1731   N. Salmon Lives Bishops III. 177   [He] sets himself up for an Arbitrator of Differences... His Performance is but a kind of Insult on both [Dissenters and Churchmen], in which he would seem to knock their Heads together, and expose both.
1786   J. O'Keefe Patrick in Prussia ii. 31   Flo. Ay, thy love loves me, Dar. Knock their heads together.
a1901   R. W. Buchanan Sweet Nancy (1914) ii. 51   I suppose they're talking over the business I couldn't understand. How I should like to knock their heads together.
1940   Charleston (W. Va.) Daily Mail 29 Dec. 7/1   We long to..get over there to Europe and bang a few heads together and persuade all the deluded leaders everywhere to act for lasting peace.
1975   D. Bloodworth Clients of Omega xxi. 204   Provoking desperate people into believing that they can only bring about unity among men by knocking their moronic heads together.
2004   D. Peck Careers Services iii. 50   He gained an early reputation as a right-wing critic of the Service who intended to change attitudes and bang heads together where necessary.

a1652—2004(Hide quotations)

 P3. In collocation with another noun.
 a. with one's head in the air and variants. Cf. head-in-air adj.

 (a) With an air of superiority, haughtiness, or self-importance. Cf. to hold one's head high at hold v. 30a, with one's nose in the air at nose n. Phrases 3g.

1788   R. Cumberland Observer IV. xcvii. 38   If he carries his head in the air here, and expects the crowd to make way for him, he will soon run foul of somebody that will make him repent of his stateliness.
1830   E. Bulwer-Lytton Paul Clifford I. iv. 56   He trundled his cart with his head in the air, and one day gave the very beadle of the parish ‘the cut direct’.
1883   Work & Leisure Dec. 398   It is not the woman who goes about with her head in the air, saying, ‘Look at me, what a superior person I am!’ who is the most respected or well-beloved member of society.
1913   M. Saunders Pussy Black-face xiv. 245   I did wish she would stop, but she had her head in the air, she saw only her own glorified self, and sailed on and on.
2007   D. D. Birch Shattered Souls i. 14   She was the sophisticated, prissy type... You know, the type who always has her head in the air.

1788—2007(Hide quotations)


 (b) In a dreamy, impractical, or unworldly manner. Cf. to have one's head in the clouds at Phrases 3c.

1890   A. Lang Red Fairy Bk. 1   He was always called the Star Gazer, because when he drove his cows over the commons.., he went along with his head in the air, gaping at nothing.
1924   W. Orpen Stories Old Ireland & Myself ix. 80   You ran the chance of seeing W. B. Y. in the streets, walking along with his head in the air, his thoughts blinding him to the sight of you.
1994   P. Vander Waerdt Socratic Movement ii. 53   Socrates recounts..how he undertook to recover from his Aristophanic reputation as an idle chatterer with his head in the air.

1890—1994(Hide quotations)


 b. head of the class: see class n. and adj. Phrases 1.


 c. to have one's head in the clouds and variants: to be detached from earthly matters; to be out of touch with reality; to be dreamy, impractical, or unworldly. Cf. in the clouds at cloud n. 9b.

1806   M. Edgeworth Leonora II. xlvi. 24   You would have a wife with her head in the clouds, would you?
1819   Q. Rev. Apr. 301   A person given to abstraction and solitary speculation is proverbially said to have his head in the clouds.
1852   ‘A. Lothrop’ Dollars & Cents I. xix. 181   I..have seen him—with his head in the clouds as you say—go stumbling along over the obstacles which had accumulated through his abstraction, and hardly know what they were.
1918   G. F. Lees tr. E. Wetterlé Behind Scenes in Reichstag iii. 51   He was regarded before the war as an abstract theorist with his head in the clouds.
1999   Campaign 2 July 29/2   The creatives I've come across don't tend to have their heads in the clouds or too far up their arses.
2011   Times (Nexis) 9 May 6   Nick nodded, eyes dreamy, head in the clouds.

1806—2011(Hide quotations)


  head of the corner   n. a cornerstone; chiefly, and now only, figurative and in figurative contexts, mainly with reference or allusion to biblical use (see quot. c1384); cf. headstone of the corner at headstone n. 1.  [After post-classical Latin caput anguli (Vulgate), itself after Hellenistic Greek κεφαλὴ γωνίας (New Testament), and ultimately after Hebrew rō'š pinnāh in the psalm (118:22) alluded to by the New Testament passages.]

[OE   West Saxon Gospels: Matt. (Corpus Cambr.) xxi. 42   Se stan þe ða timbriendan awurpon ys geworden to þære hyrnan heafde [L. in caput anguli].]
a1325  (c1280)    Southern Passion (Pepys 2344) (1927) l. 256   He is in þe heued of the corner, yleyd and in þe grounde.
c1384   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Douce 369(2)) (1850) Luke xx. 17   The stoon whom men bildinge reproueden, this is maad in to the heed of the corner [1611 King James is become the head of the corner].
1572   J. Bridges tr. R. Gwalther Hundred, Threescore & Fiftene Homelyes vppon Actes Apostles xxvii. 200   Him [sc. Jesus] hath God raised from death, and made him the head of the corner, that is, a Lord and a sauiour, and the ruler of his Churche.
1681   W. Atwood Confut. iii. 76 in Jus Anglorum   If King William, the Master-builder, refus'd what this Author would make the Head of the Corner.
1730   J. Guyse Christ, Son of God (ed. 2) 55   They preached thro' Jesus the resurrection of the dead; and that he is become the head of the corner.
1811   Monthly Mag. Apr. 218/1   In the perfection of this knowledge, consists the primary business of education. It is the foundation-stone, and the ‘head of the corner’; it is alpha and omega, the first and last of our studies.
1912   J. Royce Sources Relig. Insight v. 172   For such people the postulate which religion makes the head of the corner is rather a stumbling-stone.
1988   D. D. Honoré Trevor Huddleston p. v   Trevor Huddleston has been a stumbling-block to many, to others the head of the corner of a longed-for building.
2004   Africa News (Nexis) 22 Jan.   The stone that was rejected by Switzerland has become, as it were, the head of the corner in Benin.

a1325—2004(Hide quotations)


 (a) over head and ears: (so as to be) completely immersed; (figurative) (so as to be) deeply immersed or involved in something. Cf. Phrases 1k(d)(i), over (one's, the) ears at ear n.1 Phrases 1m.

?1521   A. Barclay Bk. Codrus & Mynalcas sig. a.iii   Or falles in the mudde bothe ouer heed and eares.
1530   J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 725/2   He souced him in the water over heed and eares.
1581   R. Mulcaster Positions xxvii. 102   To dippe their new borne children into extreme cold water ouer head and eares.
1663   S. Pepys Diary 2 Oct. (1971) IV. 322   My wife, who is over head and ears in getting her house up.
1665   T. Manley tr. H. Grotius De Rebus Belgicis 875   The Commonwealth..would run over head and ears in debt.
1690   W. Walker Idiomatologia Anglo-Lat. 233   He is over head and ears in love.
1714   E. Budgell tr. Theophrastus Moral Characters ix. 32   He..sowses himself over Head and Ears in the first Tub that stands in his Way.
1768   T. Gray Let. 27 Aug. in Corr. (1971) III. 1045   I am..over head & ears in writings.
1834   D. Macmillan in T. Hughes Mem. (1883) 66   I am always over head and ears with one trouble or another.
1867   Trollope Last Chron. Barset II. liii. 103   You are over head and ears in debt.
1908   Outing Aug. 574/1   I fell in crossing that Creek; fell in over head and ears, in ice water.
1919   E. Glasgow Builders ii. vii. 303   She wants him just as much as if she were over head and ears in love.
2002   B. Kumar Sahu Amusing Anecd. Indian Red Tape 84   Many a state government faces a severe resource crunch and is over head and ears in financial trouble.

?1521—2002(Hide quotations)


 (b) In the forms head and ears, head over ears in same sense (chiefly figurative).With head over ears, cf. head over heels at Phrases 3i(b).

1576   A. Fleming tr. Erasmus in Panoplie Epist. 353   That Man..should lye..and shrowde himselfe, head and eares, in slouthfulnesse.
1660   J. Harding tr. Paracelsus Archidoxis i. 100   They..are sunk Head and Ears in the glory of the World.
1675   O. Wills Vindiciæ Vindiciarum sig. F3   To plunge Men head and ears under Water.
1774   J. Morrison Advantages of Alliance with Great Mogul 93   The English..cannot at present afford to pay even a single shilling of dividend, without plunging head over ears in debt.
1809   T. Hill Marmion Travestied iii. 105   One who was head and ears in love.
1843   A. Bethune Sc. Peasant's Fire-side 62   He intended..to take a third individual to a horse-pond..and duck him head and ears three times.
1887   C. Fothergill Enthusiast II. 95   He was head over ears in debt when he married her.
a1908   J. S. Lamar in L. L. Knight Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials, & Legends (1914) II. xxxii. 262   Strong arms..would duck him head and ears in the water.
1920   J. D. Beresford Imperfect Mother vi. 240   I don't want you to fall head over ears in love with her, and make yourself utterly miserable.
1946   U. Pope-Hennessy C. Dickens xxiii. 351   He falls head over ears in love with Dora Spenlow.
2011   Leicester Mercury (Nexis) 11 May   They left this country head and ears in debt.

1576—2011(Hide quotations)


 (c) by (the) head and ears : (with reference to pulling, dragging, etc.) roughly, violently; unceremoniously. Also figurative. Cf. by (the) head and shoulders at Phrases 3o(a)(i), to pull (also drag, draw, pluck, etc.) by the ears at ear n.1 Phrases 1c(c).

1590   ‘Pasquil’ First Pt. Pasquils Apol. sig. Cv   They haue all vowed to hale thee out of thy trenches by the head and eares.
1650   J. Price Cloudie Clergie 7   Such treacherous, if not traiterous persons as these were, should be pluck't away even by head and ears.
1783   Weekly Entertainer 3 Feb. 110   An enthusiast..lugs in the gospel by head and ears, in season and out of season.
1873   Punch 17 May 200   An..utterly irrelevant story, lugged in by head and ears.
1911   Cosmopolitan Mag. June 11   Governor Davidson, who—dragged in by head and ears—made but a limp witness before the legislative committee.
1983   I. Avsey tr. F. Dostoyevsky Village of Stepanchikovo i. ix. 128   ‘Drag him here by the head and ears!’ Uncle shouted, stamping his foot.

1590—1983(Hide quotations)


 (a) (from) head to foot (also feet) and variants: all over or throughout a person's body; figurative completely, thoroughly, through and through. Also head and foot. Cf. from head to toe at toe n. 5d.In quot. 1765   with reference to a full-length portrait.  [After post-classical Latin a capite usque ad pedes (Vulgate).]

eOE   tr. Bede Eccl. Hist. (Tanner) iv. xxxii. 378   Þa he arisende wæs, þa gefelde he his lichoman healfne dæl from þæm heafde oð þa fet [L. a capite usque ad pedes] mid þa aðle geslægene beon, þe Grecas nemnað paralysis.
a1300   in C. Brown Relig. Lyrics 14th Cent. (1924) 3   Fram side to side fro hiued to þe fot..oueral þu findest blod.
a1325  (c1250)    Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 3151   Ile man..Heued and fet..lesen fro ðe bones and eten.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1961) Lev. xiii. 12   Ȝif..þe rennynge lepre..couere al þe flesch fro þe hed vnto þe feet.
c1425   Lydgate Troyyes Bk. (Augustus A.iv) ii. l. 1035 (MED)   Þis ymage, by diuisioun, Was of schap and of proporcioun From hed to foot so maisterly entayled.
c1450   in F. J. Furnivall Polit., Relig., & Love Poems (1903) 180   Y fond..a man sittynge, From heed to foot woundid was he.
a1500  (c1400)    Vision of Tundale (Adv.) (1843) l. 949   Fro hed to fotte ay was gnawyng Scrattyng fretyng fleyng and styngyng.
a1560   W. Kennedy Passioun of Christ in J. A. W. Bennett Devotional Pieces (1955) 32   Fra heid to fute þai brak baith hid and ryme.
1596   H. Clapham Briefe of Bible i. 101   Likewise should Ezra see their whole Monarch, head and foote.
1603   Shakespeare Hamlet ii. ii. 459   [He] Hath now his blacke and grimme complexion smeered With Heraldry more dismall, head to foote.
1632   T. E. Lawes Womens Rights v. xxviii. 389   At Rome, or Reams, where they vse to belie vs head and foot.
1672   M. A. Cataplus 62   Others in little ease are put And others fast'ned head to foot.
1765   H. Walpole Vertue's Anecd. Painting (ed. 2) II. iii. 120