ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

32 Idioms and Phrases Expressing Anger

Updated on October 9, 2019
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna consulted and contributed to books about writing and taught English Writing to Elementary school students.


Idiom and Phrase Expression

Writers get stumped when it comes to expressing anger in fiction. They think avoiding idiomatic or phrasal expressions is correct because of overuse or cliché. Sometimes, they express the right meaning. Most idioms and phrases documented by well-known writers originate on the streets or countryside. “Send him packing” means telling someone to leave or go away because of anger or annoyance. This idiom comes from Shakespeare. He documented many idiomatic phrases.

Idiom and Phrase Examples

The reader needs to understand why the character is angry, so there is no startling revelation when the character pounds his fist into the door or when she scratches his eyes out. Characters in novels get angry, and the best way to show anger is in action.

A writer uses dialogue to show anger as well. That dialogue speaks well using an idiom. Some idioms come from movies. Like Dirty Harry films, “Make my day” or “Do you feel lucky, punk.”

Expressing Anger

Most idiomatic phrases or phrases come from yesteryear’s literature. Knowing what an idiomatic phrase means helps the writer express himself. It ignites the creative juices. Finding the right expression is challenging, so I’ve dug up quite a few idiomatic and phrasal expressions that indirectly show the emotion of anger.

1. Hell's Bells and Puppy Dog Tails

I first heard the phrase “hell’s bells and puppy dog tails” when my father-in-law lost a hand at cards. In my research, I found the phrase “hell’s bells,” which means fiercely upset. The phrase is novel, not used often anymore. It originated in the late 19th century. “Puppy-dog tails” comes from a 19th-century rhyme about what boys are made up. I guess, pulling a puppy’s trail makes the unfortunate animal mad.

2. Nurse A Grudge Against Someone

The idiomatic phrase is visual and brings up all sorts of imagery. The writer needs to understand the meaning of "nurse." This definition is novel since the meaning is not "take care of someone who is sick." This particular definition means "maintain thoughts, a feeling, or theory." I visualize bigotry or prejudice or jealousy for stealing someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend. “He nurses a grudge against her for going out with his best friend.”

3. Throw A Fit

The idiomatic phrase means to become very angry or agitated. I often heard mothers say their son threw a fit. A writer intensifies it my writing “throw forty fits.” The phrase is slang and originated in 1930.

4. Mad as…

“Mad as…” comes with several end words that describe someone being angry. “Mad as a meat-ax” means extremely angry or dangerously crazy. The idiomatic phrase comes from Australia since the 1920s. “Mad as a cut snake” means very mad or exceedingly angry and originates from Australia 1890. Other endings from down under are “…a Chinaman,” “…a dingbat,” and “…goanna.” Canada originated one “mad as a wet hen,” which means Intensely annoyed. All these phrases change with “madder than…” Using these phrases is a writer’s tool, turning them into similes. “He is madder than a man carrying a meat-ax.”

5. Dish It Out

The idiomatic phrase describes someone who is verbally harsh towards others or even physically harsh. Either way, the person is angry and dishing it out. “He can dish it out, but he can’t take it.” is a common phrase heard since 1925.

6. Up Yours!

Is the idiomatic phrase voicing anger at the intended? There are variations to the phrase with different endings. “Up your pipe!” and “up your jumper!” are phrases that express anger as long as the person’s attitude and voice match the words. The phrases originated in 1930 and 1920 respectively.

7. Piss-off!

When someone says “piss-off,” it means they are angry or displeased with a person or thing. Being made at a person is easy to visualize. The idiom directed at a broken-down car works as well. The phrase originated in 1940. In the 1970s, the words used by teenagers. The writer keeps in mind that older people are not likely to say “piss-off.”


8. Have A Bone to Pick

The idiomatic phrase “have a bone to pick (with someone)” means to have something to argue about with someone, which means that the person is angry. “Bob is always picking bones with people for no reason.” I see an old man not happy with a friend or an acquaintance saying, “Bob, I have a bone to pick with you about cheating at cards.”

9. Have a Chip on One’s Shoulder

This idiomatic phrase is visual. Anyone with a chip on his or her shoulder is looking for a fight. They want to argue because they are angry all the time. A writer uses this phrase in a fun and descriptive way. A person with a chip on his shoulder is uncomfortable to be around.

10. Burned Up

The idiomatic phrase means very angry. “I never seen Bill so burned up over losing a game before.” A writer describes a character burning up with anger or just burning over a situation. "You better leave because Bob is burning up."

11. Go Fly a Kite!

A person is mad at some or annoyed, and they want them to leave their immediate area, they say "Go Fly a Kite! Quit bothering me!" The idiom is slang and dates around the 1900s.

12. Grit One's Teeth

Grit's one's teeth, literally means grinding one's teeth because they are so mad and angry but are not expressing their anger. "He quietly grits his teeth over the money he lost at the poker game."


13. Have a Conniption Fit

A person gets angry over something or violent emotion. "She had a conniption fit when I dropped her device and cracked the screen."

14. Have a Low Boiling Point

Have a low boiling point describes a person who gets angry or mad easily. "John is pretty touchy, right now, and has a low boiling point." A writer uses this idiom in many ways such as "Tom felt his low boiling point ending up even lower after he saw his girlfriend dancing with another man."

15. Stick in One's Craw

When someone has someone of something sticking in their craw, it means they are irritated or displease with it. Another way of saying someone is mad about something. "You're trying to stick the problem in my craw!"


16. Get Off My Back!

"Get off my back!" express annoyance with someone telling the person what to do or criticizing. The person wants to be left alone.

17. Up in Arms

"Up in arms" means a person or a group is angry, and they are complaining about something. A mother is up in arms about her kids not cleaning up their rooms. The town is up in arms about drugs and alcohol in the park at night, and the police do nothing about it.

18. Bear with a Sore Head

"Bear with a sore head" means the person is in a bad mood and gets annoyed over little things. My neighbor is a bear with a sore head in the mornings. I can't do yard work because the noise sets his temper off.


19. Be in a Black Mood

"Be in a black mood" means to be irritably or angrily depressed. My dad is in a black mood. I will ask him tomorrow about taking the camping trip.

20. Blow a Fuse

"Blow a fuse" means losing your temper or go into a rage. It also means becoming extremely angry and suddenly going into a rage. My teacher blew a fuse when over half the class didn't turn in their homework.

21. Blow Up

"Blow up" means suddenly becoming angry at someone or something. "He always blows up over the spilled milk." It happens suddenly, like bursting with anger.

Finding the right words to express anger is a challenge.
Finding the right words to express anger is a challenge. | Source

22. Give Vent To

"Give Vent to" is used in expressing sadness, but is primarily used for someone blowing off steam. "She gives vent to the high gas prices even though she drives a Suburban Ford."

23. Rage-quit

"Rage-quit" shows how a person is so angry about something that they quit. Most noticeably when someone is playing a video game.

24.Throw Your Toys out of the Pram

"Throw your toys out the pram" is a dated phrase, but the image of a child throwing a tantrum in a baby carriage with toys flying out and bouncing on the ground is funny.

25. Let Rip

"Let rip" indicates the person suddenly gets angry and shouts at the other person or persons. You can write, "He let it rip after finding out his son got a drunk driving ticket."

26. Cut up Nasty/Rough

"Cut up Nasty/Rough" is an old-fashioned phrase from the United Kingdom. I find it useful because you can use it in many ways today. "Did you see how he got all cut up and nasty over the spilled milk." "Get ahold of yourself, mate. No reason to get so cut up and rough with the chicken."

27. Give Someone the Finger

"Give someone the finger" is tried and true, and probably used too much for its effectiveness. I see it as more of a childish way of reacting to something that causes you anger.

28. Go Berserk

"Go berserk" or "Going berserk" show someone very angry and violence in an uncontrolled way. "He went berserk when I told him I wanted to end our relationship."

29. Let Off/Blow off Steam

"Blow off steam or Let off stream" expresses someone discharging anger without hurting anyone or anything. "She just wants to let off steam, so she took a walk in the park."

30. Put/Stick Two Fingers up at Someone

"Put/stick two fingers up at someone" is not a common expression, though effective in a visual sense. The phrase expresses anger toward someone in an unsophisticated way that is rude. The person holds up his first two fingers in a "V" shape with his palm facing the target. "He stuck two fingers up at the police officer."

31. Throw a Wobbly

"Throw a wobbly" is a funny way to describe an angry reaction to someone or something. It is an informal British expression but effective. "Oh, don't go and throw a wobbly on me, mate. Give it a break."

32. Turn On

"Turn on" has many meanings, some positive, like "She turned me on." This expression can be negative. It means to become suddenly angry and start criticizing someone, or just plain, shout at them. "Bobby can turn it on sometimes with his wife. I wish he'd turn it off, geez."

Artistic License in English

I hope my idiom examples help you write better and show more to your readers. A writer creates as he or she sees fit when taking an idiom. The artistic license is clear for writers. You alter or embellish the phrases as you please. I wish you a well-written story.

© 2019 Kenna McHugh


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      11 months ago from Northern California

      That's a smart move keeping an eye on it. I don't think squirrels get rabies -other diseases but not rabies.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 months ago from California Gold Country

      She actually had to rip it off her fingertip-- and though she wanted to throw it (it was outside).. decided she had better put it back in the cage and keep it to see if it was sick.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      11 months ago from Northern California


      I bet that hurt! My pet squirrel bit me and hung on to my index finger. It seemed like he had no plans for letting go until I threw him off, and he landed on the carpet and scampered away - surprisingly into his cage. Traumatized doesn't begin to describe how I felt.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 months ago from California Gold Country

      My parents were not angry people and I never heard either one of them curse-- except one time my Mom said "Hells Bells!" when a ground squirrel I had captured in a cage, bit her finger and wouldn't let go.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      11 months ago from Northern California


      Thanks for the comment. Tell me some real-life and colorful ways to describe anger?

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image


      11 months ago


      I guess real life is more colorful and angry than these 15 idioms. I would put these in the very polite category for anger. Despite my comment, the article was well done and interesting.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      Patrick, That is so cool. I am glad they liked it.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      NF, Learning about idioms is fun plus a decent way to build your vocabulary.

    • Patrick Patrick profile image


      12 months ago from Nairobi

      I shared this article with some of my neighbors (a few high school students) and they really love it.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      Liz, "...hit the roof" is a good one. There is also "...hit the ceiling". "throw a wobbly" is more like going postal. Yikes!!! Good ones.

    • naturalfever profile image

      Tapaswini Bashoo 

      12 months ago from Washington DC

      Interesting .. never knew about these constructions.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      Others I have thought of are 'he/she/they hit the roof' and 'to throw a wobbly'.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      Patrick, That makes sense. Languages evolve just like culture. As a writer, I like learning idioms because it helps my creative juices. They are still in the reference books, so I use them or change them around to fit my story.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      Liz, "Hopping mad" is a good one. "Fuming" is more of a slang word. These days the difference is minute. Idioms are words used together to convey a meaning different than if they were individually defined.

    • Patrick Patrick profile image


      12 months ago from Nairobi

      Thank you for sharing the list. Such idioms as these are being used less and less these days. Could it be as a result of changes in how we use language? For instance, the "English" used during the Victorian era is different from today's. I wonder is the use or lack of using such phases is just but a process of change in language. Not sure if I make much sense :)

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      12 months ago from UK

      This is a helpful list. My Dad used to say he was 'fuming'. I have also heard people described as being hopping mad.

    • Kenna McHugh profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenna McHugh 

      12 months ago from Northern California

      Louise, you are welcome. Idioms are so much fun with writing.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      12 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I have used many of these idioms in the past! Very interesting to read, thankyou.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)