phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Crossways, loggerheads

Posted by ESC on April 15, 2003

In Reply to: In tension with posted by Bookworm on April 15, 2003

: : : Hi,

: : : Does anybody know the meaning of the phrase "to be in tension with"? Please do me a favor.

: : : Thank you.

: : : Mei

: : I've never heard the phrase. Here's what an online dictionary says about "tension."

: : From Merriam Webster online at

: : Main Entry: 1 ten·sion
: : Pronunciation: 'ten(t)-sh&n
: : Function: noun
: : Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin tension-, tensio, from tendere
: : Date: 1533
: : 1 a : the act or action of stretching or the condition or degree of being stretched to stiffness : TAUTNESS b : STRESS 1b
: : 2 a : either of two balancing forces causing or tending to cause extension b : the stress resulting from the elongation of an elastic body
: : 3 a : inner striving, unrest, or imbalance often with physiological indication of emotion b : a state of latent hostility or opposition between individuals or groups c : a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements
: : 4 : a device to produce a desired tension (as in a loom)
: : - ten·sion·al /'ten(t)-sh(&-)n&l/ adjective
: : - ten·sion·less /'ten(t)-sh&n-l&s/ adjective

: Take your pick:

: A guess: It could refer to when two people are in a conflict. There would a general tension between them, so it may be said that they are "in tension" with each other. (However, this need not be limited to a party to two).
: I have heard of the phrase to be "in tension about", which means to worry something excessively and usually for an extended period of time.
: Or, perhaps the phrase is "in contention with" which means to be in competition with someone or something, i.e. a rivalry of some sort.

The expressions I've heard: "get crossways" with someone and "at loggerheads."

CROSSWAYS - adverb. ".2. In disagreement, at cross purposes.He's crossways with the world." From "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume 1 by Frederic G. Cassidy (1985, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England).

LOGGERHEADS - "Two people 'at loggerheads' are involved in a quarrel, in an expression going back to Shakespeare's time. The first 'loggerheads' were long-handled instruments with large metal cups on the end, used to melt tar over an open fire. In naval warfare during the Middle ages, sailors would heat pitch and tar in 'loggerheads' and then hurl or dump the contents on attacking craft." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).