27 Idioms for Conflict


Conflict is an inherent part of human interactions. Whether it’s a minor disagreement or a full-blown dispute, conflicts can arise in various aspects of our lives.

In this listicle, we’ll explore idioms for conflict, deciphering their meanings, and showcasing how they encapsulate the essence of discord.

From “go toe to toe” to “make amends,” these idioms paint a colorful picture of the conflicts we encounter daily.

idioms for conflict

What is an idiom for conflict?

Idioms are phrases or expressions that convey meanings beyond their literal interpretation.


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Created by Dr. Julia Rossi

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What is a simile?

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Identify the simile in the following sentence: “She swims like a fish.”

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What is a metaphor?

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Which of the following is a metaphor?

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What is an idiom?

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What does the idiom “break the ice” mean?

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What is an adjective?

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Choose the adjective in the following sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

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“Out of the frying pan into the fire” is an example of:

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The abbreviation “NASA” stands for:

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What does the idiom “hit the books” mean?

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“LOL” is an abbreviation for:

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Idioms for conflict often symbolize the tensions, disagreements, and clashes that can occur between individuals or groups.

Let’s delve into a list of idioms related to conflict, along with their meanings and usage:

IdiomMeaningExample Sentence
Go toe to toeTo engage in a heated argument or confrontation with someone.During the meeting, they went toe to toe over the budget proposal.
Lock hornsTo engage in a fierce disagreement or conflict, often involving opposing viewpoints.The two political leaders locked horns during the debate.
Clash of titansA situation where two powerful or influential entities come into direct opposition.The merger of the two tech giants resulted in a clash of titans.
Butting headsTo have frequent disagreements or conflicts with someone.Due to their stubborn personalities, they were constantly butting heads in the workplace.
BattlegroundA place or situation where conflicts or disputes are common.The issue of resource allocation became a battleground for the competing departments.
StandoffA situation where neither party involved in a conflict is willing to yield or compromise.The negotiations reached a standoff as both sides refused to budge on their demands.
Square offTo prepare for a confrontation or conflict with someone.The two boxers squared off in the ring, ready to face each other in a championship match.
War of wordsA heated and argumentative exchange of words or verbal conflict.Their political debate turned into a war of words, with both candidates trying to outdo each other.
FireworksA situation where intense emotions or conflicts erupt.When the controversial decision was announced, it sparked fireworks among the passionate supporters.
SlugfestA prolonged and fierce conflict or argument.The negotiations turned into a slugfest, with both parties unwilling to back down.
Tug of warA situation where two opposing forces or parties struggle for control or dominance.The tug of war between management and employees over work hours continued for weeks.
Cross swordsTo engage in a verbal or physical conflict with someone.He chose to cross swords with the critic who had given his movie a scathing review.
Run-inA minor conflict or argument, often resulting from a disagreement or misunderstanding.They had a run-in at the party when they accidentally spilled a drink on each other.
FeudA long-standing and bitter conflict or rivalry between individuals, families, or groups.The feud between the two families had been ongoing for generations, with no end in sight.
RumbleA noisy and violent fight or conflict.The bar turned into chaos when a rumble broke out between two groups of patrons.
DuelA formal or planned fight or contest between two individuals, often to settle a dispute.In the old days, duels were used to resolve personal conflicts with honor.
Grind one’s gearsTo irritate or annoy someone, often by one’s actions or words.His constant interruptions during the meeting really grind my gears.
Hit a nerveTo say or do something that triggers a strong emotional response in someone.Her comments about his past mistakes hit a nerve, leading to a heated argument.
Push one’s buttonsTo intentionally provoke or irritate someone by targeting their sensitivities or triggers.He knew exactly how to push her buttons and provoke her during their disagreements.
Walking on eggshellsTo be cautious and avoid causing conflict or tension in a sensitive situation.After their recent argument, they were both walking on eggshells, trying to keep the peace.
Knock heads togetherTo bring two parties in conflict together in an attempt to resolve their differences.The manager had to knock heads together to get the two teams to cooperate on the project.
Break the iceTo initiate a conversation or action to ease tension and start a friendly interaction.He told a joke to break the ice and lighten the mood in the room.
Break a deadlockTo find a solution or compromise to resolve a situation where no progress is being made.The mediator helped the two parties break the deadlock and reach an agreement.
Clear the airTo address and resolve misunderstandings or conflicts to restore a peaceful atmosphere.They decided to have an open conversation to clear the air and improve their relationship.
Call it quitsTo decide to stop or end a conflict, disagreement, or relationship.After years of arguing, they finally decided to call it quits and go their separate ways.
Make amendsTo take actions to repair or reconcile a relationship or situation after a conflict.She apologized and tried to make amends with her friend after their falling-out.

Conflict is like a storm brewing on the horizon, with tension building up like dark clouds before a downpour. For more comparisons to describe conflict, you can click on this link: Similes for conflict. And for a variety of metaphors related to conflict, you can explore this link: Metaphors for conflict.

Idioms for Conflict

1. Go toe to toe

Meaning: To engage in a heated argument or confrontation with someone.
In a Sentence: During the meeting, they went toe to toe over the budget proposal, each defending their own ideas.

2. Lock horns

Meaning: To engage in a fierce disagreement or conflict, often involving opposing viewpoints.
In a Sentence: The two political leaders locked horns during the debate, unable to find common ground.

3. Clash of titans

Meaning: A situation where two powerful or influential entities come into direct opposition.
In a Sentence: The merger of the two tech giants resulted in a clash of titans, causing ripples in the industry.

4. Butting heads

Meaning: To have frequent disagreements or conflicts with someone.
In a Sentence: Due to their stubborn personalities, they were constantly butting heads in the workplace.

5. Battleground

Meaning: A place or situation where conflicts or disputes are common.
In a Sentence: The issue of resource allocation became a battleground for the competing departments.

6. Standoff

Meaning: A situation where neither party involved in a conflict is willing to yield or compromise.
In a Sentence: The negotiations reached a standoff as both sides refused to budge on their demands.

7. Square off

Meaning: To prepare for a confrontation or conflict with someone.
In a Sentence: The two boxers squared off in the ring, ready to face each other in a championship match.

8. War of words

Meaning: A heated and argumentative exchange of words or verbal conflict.
In a Sentence: Their political debate turned into a war of words, with both candidates trying to outdo each other.

9. Fireworks

Meaning: A situation where intense emotions or conflicts erupt.
In a Sentence: When the controversial decision was announced, it sparked fireworks among the passionate supporters.

10. Slugfest

Meaning: A prolonged and fierce conflict or argument.
In a Sentence: The negotiations turned into a slugfest, with both parties unwilling to back down.

11. Tug of war

Meaning: A situation where two opposing forces or parties struggle for control or dominance.
In a Sentence: The tug of war between management and employees over work hours continued for weeks.

12. Cross swords

Meaning: To engage in a verbal or physical conflict with someone.
In a Sentence: He chose to cross swords with the critic who had given his movie a scathing review.

13. Run-in

Meaning: A minor conflict or argument, often resulting from a disagreement or misunderstanding.
In a Sentence: They had a run-in at the party when they accidentally spilled a drink on each other.

14. Feud

Meaning: A long-standing and bitter conflict or rivalry between individuals, families, or groups.
In a Sentence: The feud between the two families had been ongoing for generations, with no end in sight.

15. Rumble

Meaning: A noisy and violent fight or conflict.
In a Sentence: The bar turned into chaos when a rumble broke out between two groups of patrons.

16. Duel

Meaning: A formal or planned fight or contest between two individuals, often to settle a dispute.
In a Sentence: In the old days, duels were used to resolve personal conflicts with honor.

17. Grind one’s gears

Meaning: To irritate or annoy someone, often by one’s actions or words.
In a Sentence: His constant interruptions during the meeting really grind my gears.

18. Hit a nerve

Meaning: To say or do something that triggers a strong emotional response in someone.
In a Sentence: Her comments about his past mistakes hit a nerve, leading to a heated argument.

19. Push one’s buttons

Meaning: To intentionally provoke or irritate someone by targeting their sensitivities or triggers.
In a Sentence: He knew exactly how to push her buttons and provoke her during their disagreements.

20. Walking on eggshells

Meaning: To be cautious and avoid causing conflict or tension in a sensitive situation.
In a Sentence: After their recent argument, they were both walking on eggshells, trying to keep the peace.

21. Knock heads together

Meaning: To bring two parties in conflict together in an attempt to resolve their differences.
In a Sentence: The manager had to knock heads together to get the two teams to cooperate on the project.

22. Break the ice

Meaning: To initiate a conversation or action to ease tension and start a friendly interaction.
In a Sentence: He told a joke to break the ice and lighten the mood in the room.

23. Break a deadlock

Meaning: To find a solution or compromise to resolve a situation where no progress is being made.
In a Sentence: The mediator helped the two parties break the deadlock and reach an agreement.

24. Clear the air

Meaning: To address and resolve misunderstandings or conflicts to restore a peaceful atmosphere.
In a Sentence: They decided to have an open conversation to clear the air and improve their relationship.

25. Call it quits

Meaning: To decide to stop or end a conflict, disagreement, or relationship.
In a Sentence: After years of arguing, they finally decided to call it quits and go their separate ways.

26. Make amends

Meaning: To take actions to repair or reconcile a relationship or situation after a conflict.
In a Sentence: She apologized and tried to make amends with her friend after their falling-out.

Quizzes About The Idioms in The Article

Quiz 1:

Question: What does the idiom “Lock horns” mean?

  1. To have a physical fight.
  2. To engage in a fierce disagreement or conflict.
  3. To lock up valuable possessions.

Answer: 2. To engage in a fierce disagreement or conflict.


Quiz 2:

Question: What is the meaning of the phrase “Tug of war”?

  1. A friendly competition.
  2. A situation where two opposing forces struggle for control or dominance.
  3. A maritime activity.

Answer: 2. A situation where two opposing forces struggle for control or dominance.


Quiz 3:

Question: When might someone use the expression “Grind one’s gears”?

  1. To describe a soothing experience.
  2. To irritate or annoy someone, often by one’s actions or words.
  3. To share a meal with friends.

Answer: 2. To irritate or annoy someone, often by one’s actions or words.


Quiz 4:

Question: What does the idiom “Clear the air” imply?

  1. To create a breeze.
  2. To address and resolve misunderstandings or conflicts to restore a peaceful atmosphere.
  3. To discuss the weather.

Answer: 2. To address and resolve misunderstandings or conflicts to restore a peaceful atmosphere.


Quiz 5:

Question: What is the meaning of the phrase “Run-in”?

  1. A casual encounter with a friend.
  2. A minor conflict or argument, often resulting from a disagreement or misunderstanding.
  3. A marathon race.

Answer: 2. A minor conflict or argument, often resulting from a disagreement or misunderstanding.


Quiz 6:

Question: What does the idiom “Cross swords” signify?

  1. To engage in a physical duel.
  2. To engage in a verbal or physical conflict with someone.
  3. To play a sport involving swords.

Answer: 2. To engage in a verbal or physical conflict with someone.


Quiz 7:

Question: When might someone feel like they are “Walking on eggshells”?

  1. When they are taking a leisurely walk.
  2. When they are cautious and avoid causing conflict or tension in a sensitive situation.
  3. When they are dancing.

Answer: 2. When they are cautious and avoid causing conflict or tension in a sensitive situation.


Quiz 8:

Question: What is the meaning of the phrase “Make amends”?

  1. To take actions to repair or reconcile a relationship or situation after a conflict.
  2. To make money through investments.
  3. To win a competition.

Answer: 1. To take actions to repair or reconcile a relationship or situation after a conflict.


Quiz 9:

Question: When might someone use the expression “Fireworks”?

  1. To describe a peaceful and calm situation.
  2. To describe a situation where intense emotions or conflicts erupt.
  3. To describe a fireworks display.

Answer: 2. To describe a situation where intense emotions or conflicts erupt.


Quiz 10:

Question: What does the idiom “Break a deadlock” imply?

  1. To take a break during a sports game.
  2. To find a solution or compromise to resolve a situation where no progress is being made.
  3. To physically break a lock.

Answer: 2. To find a solution or compromise to resolve a situation where no progress is being made.

Conclusion

These idioms for conflict offer a glimpse into the diverse ways language can capture the complexities of disagreements, disputes, and rivalries. From the vivid imagery of “lock horns” to the determination to “make amends,” these expressions reflect the universal human experiences of conflict and resolution.

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