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English Idioms and Phrases: Bury the Hatchet

Updated on February 17, 2016


'Burying the hatchet' or 'to bury the hatchet' with someone means to make peace or to end an argument/conflict. For example "you have been arguing with your father long enough - its time to bury the hatchet" or "they've made up and buried the hatchet now"


This phrase is sometimes used in British English but it has a distinct American English origin dating back to the time of the English colonies.

Native Americans had among their arsenal of weapons a tomahawk or hatchet (as seen in the picture above) and during a time of war they were used as both a hand-to-hand weapon or thrown. They were also used as a multipurpose tool for chopping and cutting.

There are two different explanations for the origin of the phrase:

1: That when there was to be peace and the war was over the chief would throw his tomahawk into the ground to symbolise the end of the conflict.

2: That when the war was finished all of the Tomahawks would be buried under the ground thus burying the hatchet so that the native Americans could store the weapons safely and cache them.

There has been numerous accounts of the ceremonies of burying the hatchet from over the years, so in my opinion I would say that it probably relates more the the second.

Alternatives / Synonyms

settle an argument, to acknowledge, to end conflict

Similar Idioms

hold out the olive branch, kiss and make-up, let bygones be bygones


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