Idioms about hats

There are lots of idioms which refer to hats, some obvious in their meaning and some not so obvious. We list some of the ones we know about and attempt to explain their meaning and present an example in use.

In case you don’t know, an idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase. Categorised as formulaic language, an idiom’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.

At the drop of a hat

Without waiting or planning, immediately, promptly

He would always offer help at the drop of a hat.

Cap and gown

Academic cap and gown that is worn during graduation ceremonies.

During the ceremony for the university’s graduation, everyone donned their cap and gown.

Eat one’s hat

To do something extraordinary or special if something that you don’t think will happen actually happens. Always used with the verb “if” and is used when you are pretty sure that something will happen and you will do something extraordinary or special if it doesn’t happen, like eating your hat.

I will eat my hat if my team win today.

A feather in one’s cap

Something to be proud of, an honour

The prize was a feather in their cap as well as an honour.

Hang on to your hat

Get ready for what’s coming or about to happen.

Hang on to your hat, we’re about to launch this ship.

Hang one’s hat

To go and live somewhere.

I want to go and hang my hat in rural village.

Hang up one’s hat

To leave a job after a long career.

The man decided to hang up his hat and retire after thirty years at his job.

Hat trick

Score three of something.

He scored a hat trick in the cup final.

Hats off to you

Said to praise and thank someone for doing something helpful.

Hats off to William for working so hard and making the day a success.

Have a bee in one’s bonnet

Have a fixed idea that stays in one’s mind.

She had a bee in her bonnet about starting a new business.

Keep under one’s hat

To keep something secret.

He kept his new job offer under his hat.

Mad as a hatter

Colloquial English phrase used in conversation to suggest that a person is suffering from insanity. The origin is said to be from mercury poisoning of hat-makers.

Old hat

Not new or different, old-fashioned.

His Amstrad computer is certainly old hat today.

Pass the hat

Collect money from a group of people for some project or special cause.

We passed the hat to raise money for a new picnic bench.

Pull out of a hat

Produce something as if by magic, to invent something

It seemed the deal would not happen, but suddenly she pulled it out of a hat.

Put on one’s thinking cap

Think hard and seriously about something

I will put on my thinking cap to find a solution to this problem.

Take one’s hat off to

Admire or respect or praise someone

You have to take your hat off to him, he’s worked hard and got a promotion.

Talk through one’s hat

Say something without knowing or understanding the facts.

Our local MP is talking through his hat and does not know what he is talking about.

Throw one’s hat into the ring

Announce that one is running for a post.

The employee threw his hat into the ring and decided to apply for the manager job.

Toss one’s hat into the ring

Announce that one is running for a post.

She tossed her hat into the ring for the governor elections.

Wear more than one hat

Have more than one set of responsibilities

Our teacher wears more than one hat as head of the school board and football coach.

Wear several hats

Have more than one set of responsibilities

Our teacher wears several hats – head of the school board and football coach.

With hat in hand

With humility. Ask for something from someone who is more powerful than you.

She came with hat in hand to ask for a pay rise.