Did someone use the phrase 'over my dead body', and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
‘Over my dead body’ is an idiom that means “under no circumstances.” Usually used in a hyperbolic manner, this is a phrase that is commonly used to emphasize one’s dislike of a proposed plan or action.
The implication of this expression is that the speaker will do everything in their power to prevent the action or plan from moving forward. For example, if your friend told you they wanted to invite your ex to join in on your weekend plans, you might say:
‘Over my dead body!’
This idiom is almost always used in the first person. This means that it’s not typical to say something like “over your dead body” or “over their dead bodies.” Even in reported speech, the first person is most commonly used.
For example, an article from the Boston Globe uses the phrase to refer to the refusal of others using the first person:
"The official rhetoric from the business community toward any tax increase continues to be an over-my-dead-body 'no'"
—Boston Globe, 1989
According to some sources, the phrase ‘over my dead body’ originates from the late 18th century. However, it didn’t really become a popular part of the common vocabulary until midway through the 19th century.
When you think about it, it’s pretty easy to imagine how this expression came about. The implication is that a person would do everything in their power to stop something from happening, including fighting to the death.
In one example from Alban: Or, the History of a Young Puritan from 1853, the phrase is used three times in one short passage:
“I was determined to allow no incantations over my innocent child! I had to tell your mother,” said Mr. De Groot, with vehemence, “that a priest should never cross my threshold, for such a purpose, unless over my dead body.” He rose and repeated it, as if the words called up the scene, and looking at Mary as if she were his departed wife, struck his hand violently upon the table, saying again, – “Never– unless over my dead body!” He was white as a sheet and stared as if he saw a ghost. Again he struck the table violently. “Never shall a popish priest enter my house for such a purpose– unless over my dead BODY!”
An even earlier example appears in The Harbinger: Devoted to Social and Political Progress from 1846:
“You will not leave me again, or you will go hence only over my dead body. This terrible resolution shocked and charmed me at the same moment.”
How would this expression be used in a sentence? Let’s take a look at some examples:
What other words and phrases have a similar meaning to this phrase?
Here are some options:
This expression is so common that it has been used as the title of many films, television shows, books, and more.
Here are some examples of the phrase being used in popular culture:
‘Over my dead body’ is a phrase that suggests that the speaker has no intention of allowing something to happen. It is usually used hyperbolically and in a humorous manner.
Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!