What Does Over Your Head Mean?

To Be In Over Your Head Meaning

Definition: For something to be higher than one’s ability to understand or handle.

Origin of Over Your Head

In addition to the physical body part, head can sometime represent intelligence or aptitude in general. In the idiom over one’s head, this is the meaning head carries. This is also true in the expressions have a head for (some skill) or to keep one’s head.

Some sources put the origin of this expression at around the 1600s. Synonymous expressions include out of one’s depth and in over one’s head. This suggests that the idiom might be related to swimming in water. If a person goes too deep into the water, and the water literally is over one’s head, that person would drown if he or she didn’t know how to swim.

Therefore, if something is over a person’s head, it means that the person can’t understand the material well and is failing to grasp it. Likewise, a person who is in over his or her head can’t handle the task and is failing at it.

Examples of Over Your Head

over your head idiomIn this example, a woman is trying to convince her friend to apply for a more challenging position at his company.

Neha: I was looking at a job posting website. Look what I found! Your company is trying to hire a new director of marketing! You should apply.

Tyrese: Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure they have people more qualified than me who would be better suited to the role.

Neha: Nonsense! You have a marketing degree and several years of experience.

Tyrese: I’m just worried that I’ll be in over my head. I’d hate to try and fail.

Neha: Well, fear of failure will hurt you more than actually failing. And you won’t be in over your head. You are perfectly capable of handling all aspects of the job. If anything, you’re overqualified!

define in over your headIn this example, two office workers are discussing a new co-worker.

Barry: I can’t believe they hired that new guy. He’s supposed to be in charge of accounting, but I think he can’t do it.

Rachel: Why do you say that?

Barry: I’m training him and he doesn’t understand any of the things I’m explaining to him. Everything is over his head. It’s like he doesn’t have any experience or education in accounting at all.

More Examples

This example is about the difficulties of renovating an old, damaged house.

  • The idea of buying a beater house raises some interesting questions: How do you know if you’re about to get in over your head? At what point do you make yourself walk away? –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is from a horoscope.

  • Avoid controversial subjects like politics, religion and race because you might get in over your head and not know how to extract yourself from someone in a specific situation. Furthermore, if you are in a tough debate, your heart won’t be in it. Steer clear of this for your own good. –Chicago Sun Times


The phrase over one’s head is another way to say to be beyond one’s comprehension or ability.