We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Does It Mean to Get a "Kick in the Teeth"?

By J.E. Holloway
Updated Feb 25, 2024
Our promise to you
LanguageHumanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At LanguageHumanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

"A kick in the teeth" is an idiomatic English expression used to mean an unpleasant surprise or setback. It often has the more specific sense of a bad outcome which occurs instead of an expected good outcome. The saying relies on a simple metaphor, implying that an event is as painful, discouraging and humiliating as being kicked in the mouth.

"Kick in the teeth" is one of a large number of idiomatic English expressions, dating back to the 18th century, which relate to being kicked. The song "Ain't That A Kick in the Head," made famous by Dean Martin, uses "kick in the head" to refer to a sudden shock, while "kick in the pants" has a similar meeting. Similarly, to defeat an opponent is "to kick his butt," while to summarily eject someone from a business is "kick her out." Interestingly, there is no similar range of expressions relating to punching. In English slang, being kicked seems to be somehow more humiliating than being punched, perhaps because of the visual and physical dominance suggested by the gesture of kicking.

The experience described by the expression is more shocking and humiliating than some similar expressions. "A kick in the head" and "a kick in the pants" can both be the necessary shock that forces a person to change perspective. "A kick in the teeth," however, is never used in this sense -- the experience is never salutary, but always painful and frustrating. The difference may be that blows to the head and the seat of the pants are frequently used for comic effect in the media, while being kicked in the teeth is a more violent and frightening image.

Another use of the expression is comparative, as a part of the longer idiom "better than a kick in the teeth." This is used to indicate grudging acceptance, acknowledging that while something is unsatisfactory, it could be worse. It is often used ironically, as a deliberately understated response to something of which the speaker actually approves. For instance, someone receiving an unexpected windfall might say "a million dollars? Well, I guess that's better than a kick in the teeth."

The idiom is widely understood, and is used in both American and British English. As such, it appears in a variety of media. For example, a 2010 single by new-metal band Papa Roach is entitled "Kick in the Teeth." The same phrase occurs as the title of singles by Supergrass and Fischerspooner.

LanguageHumanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Nov 12, 2014

@Scrbblchick -- I think you have a point. Getting kicked in the teeth, so to speak, is usually something that happens that's really bad, very unexpected and almost always the result of someone else doing something dirty and low-down. Just like kicking someone in the teeth in a fistfight. It's rarely necessary, and causes a lot of damage.

I think this is one of the most descriptive idioms in English. It perfectly describes something unexpected and usually catastrophic in nature that happens either at the very worst time, or because of someone else's bad behavior.

By Scrbblchick — On Nov 11, 2014

I think this probably also goes back to old fashioned street fighting. Kicking someone in the teeth during a fight, unless it's a life-or-death situation, is considered the lowest form of fighting, right after kicking a man in the crotch.

It was understood that men didn't do that in a "fair fight." That was reserved for when a fistfight became a one-sided knife fight or something similar. Punching in the teeth with the fist is one thing. Kicking someone in the teeth is something else entirely. That's beyond low and is not considered the way a "real man" wins a fight.

LanguageHumanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

LanguageHumanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.