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Armed to the teeth

Posted by Lewis on March 14, 2006

In Reply to: Armed to the teeth posted by RRC on March 12, 2006

: : : What's meaning of "armed to the teeth"?

: : Even in the old days of personal armor, one did not armor ones teeth. So "armed to the teeth" means armed to the utmost, as fully armed as one can be. The reference to teeth, I believe, connotes an element of excess, as the gills do in "dressed to the gills." Since humans don't have gills, "dressed to the gills" connotes an element of excess, at least to me. SS

: Also your teeth are close to the top (and your gills would be too if you had them) of your body, so you're armed "up to here", from bottom to almost the top.

I'm not sure about the above - most armour extended to the head and involved some kind of protection for the face and head. 'armed' seems to mean provided with weapons - yet the head is not left unarmed either - some helms had horns or spikes (e.g. Prussian helmets) and the teeth are in themselves a weapon in close-quarter fighting.

when a person is carrying a lot of weaponry - they could be armed with a dirk/dagger strapped to the calf/in a sock, have a short-sword or small arm at the waist, have more weapons attached to a bandolier across the chest and have some heavier weapon over the shoulder - even armed to that extent, the weapons would not usually continue over-head, so the highest weapon would be below the height of the teeth, which are after all a last-ditch weapon in a struggle.

the expression therefore may well mean "armed all the way up to the neck and with the teeth above that" - but "armed to the teeth" is somewhat pithier.