What Does Bring to a Head Mean?

Bring Something to a Head Meaning

Definition: To reach the point where a new action must be taken.

When you have brought something to a head, you have increased pressure or expectations to the point at which something new must be done. When you bring something to a head, you have made it reach its turning point or climax.

In some cases, to bring something to a head means that something has been pushed into a state of crisis.

Origin of Bring Something to a Head

bringing to a headThere are several theories as to the meaning of this idiom. Grossly, and most commonly, the phrase is believed to come from medicine. When a pimple is brought to a head, a white point of it shows, and it is near to exploding. In medicine, the “head” of something is a tip that is about to burst open, just like with pimples.

Some other people believe that perhaps the phrase comes from growing a head of lettuce. In this case, when something is brought to a head, it has been grown from a seedling and has now reached a completely new state.

Examples of Bring Something to a Head

meaning of bring to a headWhen two countries are at odds with each other, an event like a shooting may bring their frustrations to a head. This may cause them to start a war with each other.

When dealing with many frustrations at once, someone’s irritation may be brought to a head by a small event like forgetting a phone.

Bringing something to a head may not necessarily always be bad. For example, if someone has been working hard on applications to colleges, his or her work may be brought to a head when receiving acceptance letters from those colleges. For the applicant, everything has changed in a positive sense.

More Examples

  • Three pending pieces of City Council legislation could bring to a head a looming battle in City Hall –Wall Street Journal
  • The legal action would bring to a head one of the more bizarre moments in corporate America this year. –New York Post

Summary

The phrase to bring something to a head is to bring it to a turning point.

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