What Does It Mean to Be "at Odds"?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

To be "at odds" means being in some sort of disagreement or conflict. For example, a person may say this when he means statistics are in contradiction with his research or that his wants are in conflict with his needs. Sometimes people are even at odds with each other. For instance, a husband may feel at odds with his wife over the family grocery shopping budget. This phrase is an idiom, which means people are not supposed to take it literally; they are instead supposed to understand the figurative meaning of the phrase, which is in conflict or contradiction.

People who are "at odds" with one another are involved with some sort of conflict or disagreement.
People who are "at odds" with one another are involved with some sort of conflict or disagreement.

Often, people use idioms because they allow for a more colorful way of speaking. Such phrases spice up language that may at times seem monotonous or even dull. The commonly used phrase "at odds" is an idiom and provides an interesting way of indicating conflict, disagreement, and contradiction. Idioms such as this one are often used in verbal speech, but some people use them in written works as well.

Spreading rumors can cause people to be at odds with each other.
Spreading rumors can cause people to be at odds with each other.

It often helps to consider examples when trying to understand the meaning of the phrase "at odds." One good example to consider involves statistics and research findings. A scientist, for example, may state that his research findings are at odds with the science world's currently accepted statistics. He may also use this phrase to state that his findings are in conflict with those of another scientist.

Sometimes the phrase "at odds" is used to indicate conflict between people. For example, spouses may feel in conflict or disagreement with each other when it comes to budgeting or deciding who is responsible for certain household tasks. Coworkers may sometimes feel in conflict with each other as well. For example, team members may disagree with each other when it comes to deciding how to proceed with a project for which they are both responsible.

In some cases, people may even state that inanimate objects are at odds with each other. For example, an individual may state that a carpet is in conflict with a sofa. In such a case, this might mean that the sofa does not coordinate well with the couch in terms of its size, style, color, or current position in a room. Likewise, an individual may use this phrase to state that a person's outfit is in conflict with his body type, which usually means his clothing choice is not well suited to his body size or shape.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


This may sound strange, but I can't stand feeling that the clothes I'm wearing are at odds with each other. I work from home, so sometimes, I just throw on whatever looks comfortable, but if it doesn't match, then I feel sort of off all day.

I finally started making a conscious effort to pair t-shirts with matching shorts. Even if I don't look the least bit formal, my tops and bottoms match, and that makes me feel a bit more composed.

If the things I put on my own body are at odds, then I feel conflicted within myself. It's best to just put a little bit of effort into picking them out in the first place. I think it actually helps me work better.


My husband and I were at odds over what to name our unborn baby. He liked hippie names like “Rain” and “Tree,” but I wanted a more traditional name like “Meredith” or “Elaine.”

We both held our positions strongly. It wasn't until about a month before I delivered that we resolved our differences.

We were at our baby shower, and my husband told everyone his picks for baby names. My sister's kids were at the shower, and they started snickering. A couple of adults even pointed out that those were odd names.

I think that in that moment, he could see that the names he had chosen would result in teasing from peers and odd looks from grownups. He changed his mind for the good of the baby.


@JackWhack – It is funny how many odd things can cause people to disagree to the point of anger. My roommates used to get into heated debates over the interpretations of paintings and poetry, which we all know are open to discussion and can be viewed differently by many people.

I always try to avoid being at odds with someone over things like this. The only things that I think are worth fighting over are things that might endanger my family or pets or deplete my finances.

My former neighbor and I were at odds over the bottles of antifreeze that she left out in her yard. I complained that my dogs could pick them up and bite into them, and she said that my dogs shouldn't be in her yard. Thankfully, she moved away soon after that.


My sister and her boyfriend used to always be at odds over their scientific opinions. They were both incredibly smart, and they somehow found a way to argue over data and statistics that they interpreted differently.

I always hated being in the house when they would start fighting. I never understood what the argument was about, so I could never pick sides. Luckily, they never asked me to do this.

I once did comment that it was odd that facts could come between them. Irrefutable data is supposed to be just that, but they always found a way to disagree over its meaning.

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