What Does "Blow Your Top" Mean?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

"Blow your top" is a colorful idiomatic expression that is used to indicate that an individual is extremely upset and is about to or has already lost his or her temper. The imagery connected with losing the temper focuses on the vision of the top of someone’s head actually coming off, due to the buildup of the internal pressure caused by the anger. Typically, the term is reserved for use when a particular event or subject inspires very deep negative feelings, making it more difficult to remain composed and logical in terms of how the situation is approached.

"Blow your top" refers to someone who has lost his or her temper.
"Blow your top" refers to someone who has lost his or her temper.

Unlike some other idioms that are used in present tense only, it is not unusual for "blow your top" to be used as not only something that is happening now but something that may happen in the very near future. For example, someone may attempt to calm someone down who is obviously about to lose his or her temper by encouraging them to step away before “you blow your top.” In this use of the saying, the idea is to prevent what would likely be a very negative event from taking place by urging some temporary distance from the issue that is causing so much distress. Once the individual who is experiencing the extreme anger has a chance to regain some composure, it may be possible to address the underlying issue with a more balanced view and work toward a solution that is equitable for everyone concerned.

Encouraging someone to stop before “you blow your top” may calm them down.
Encouraging someone to stop before “you blow your top” may calm them down.

At other times, "blow your top" refers to something that is happening this very minute. When this is the case, the individual who is losing his or her temper is in the process of expressing a great deal of anger, with those expressions including a release of verbal comments that may or may not be logical or even understandable. In some cases, the release of anger may also include some type of physical activity such as throwing a glass into a fireplace or tossing a chair across the room. If left unchecked, this release of anger may take a more violent turn that leads to physical altercations between two or more individuals.

In spite of the comical image that is sometimes associated with blowing a top, the idiom normally refers to a situation that is anything but funny. Excessive anger rarely solves any issue and may in fact only make things worse. For this reason, finding ways to not blow your top, but to channel that anger into some more constructive process is often a better way of dealing with the situation.

Difficulty with controlling anger can lead to high blood pressure.
Difficulty with controlling anger can lead to high blood pressure.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@honeybees-- I wouldn't give up on your friend and keep encouraging her to work through her anger problem. People who meet my dad today would not believe he had such a history of "blowing his top."

He is one of the most patient people I know, but he didn't used to be that way. It took many years of work, and discipline, but he made a conscious effort to control his temper.

It can be hard to take back words and actions that happen when you "blow your top" like that. For him, the changes were positive and have lasted.

I am sure there are still situations where he gets really frustrated, but he has learned to deal with it without letting it get the best of him.


One of my friends has a temper and can get frustrated easily and "blow her top." You can usually feel the anger inside her and when she really lets off steam, her face gets really red and she starts yelling.

She knows she struggles with this and has taken some anger management classes. She is learning how to cope with this better, but old habits are hard to break.

Many times she is really sorry after she has "blown her top" and finds that she has to apologize for things she has said. She doesn't have many friends, and that is one reason people choose not to hang around her very much.


I once had a coach who would "blow his top" when he got frustrated with people or certain situations. He didn't last very long at our school, and I wasn't surprised to learn one year that he did not come back.

I never knew the whole story, but I always assumed that his temper got him in trouble. With an anger problem like that, I have no idea why he was working with kids anyway.

I don't imagine any position he took would last very long. If someone has a hard time controlling their emotions and "blows their top", it usually doesn't take long for a situation to come where their true colors show.

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