stiff upper lip


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American in origin; earliest known use in 1815.[1]


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stiff upper lip (plural stiff upper lips)

  1. (idiomatic) The quality of being resolute and showing self-restraint, stereotypically associated with the British; especially as keep a stiff upper lip.
    • 1834, David Crockett, A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, page 130
      I thought now the jig was mighty nigh up with me, but I determined to keep a stiff upper lip.
    • 1899 September – 1900 July, Joseph Conrad, chapter VI, in Lord Jim: A Tale, Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood and Sons, published 1900, OCLC 8754022, pages 71–72:
      A man may go pretty near through his whole sea-life without any call to show a stiff upper lip.
    • 1960, P[elham] G[renville] Wodehouse, “II and XV”, in Jeeves in the Offing, London: Herbert Jenkins, OCLC 1227855:
      [...] Jeeves came in, bowler hat in hand, to say goodbye. A solemn moment, taxing our self-control to the utmost. However, we both kept the upper lip stiff, and after we had kidded back and forth for a while he started to withdraw. [...] He poked his head round the tree as I arrived, and when I waved a cheery hand at him, waved a fairly cheery hand at me. Though I only caught a glimpse of him, I could see that his upper lip was stiff.
    • 2005, Ben Wright with Michael Patrick Shiels, Good Bounces and Bad Lies, page 39
      In typical British stiff upper lip fashion, the tournament organizers expected us to play into, and through, the menacing weather.