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Wind Your Neck In - Meaning & Origin

Wind Your Neck In – Meaning & Origin

Have you recently heard the phrase “wind your neck in” and have absolutely no clue what that means? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll unpack the various meanings of this phrase, and take a swing at explaining its etymology too.

Wind Your Neck In – Meaning

The English idiom “wind your neck in,” has a multitude of potential meanings. The most popular use of this phrase is to tell someone to calm down or be quiet. You can also use it as a synonym for “mind your business.”


  • You can use the phrase “wind your neck in” to mean “shut up,” “calm down,” or “mind your business.”
  • This phrase likely originated in the UK, either in London or in the British Royal Air Force in the 1930s.
  • Most people would consider this phrase rude or at least moderately impolite in most contexts.

According to most sources, the phrase “wind your neck in” means different things in different contexts.

One of the most common usages of the phrase is to tell someone to “pipe down” or “shut up.” This version is said to be frequently used by the Irish, and it is based on the image of someone extending their neck to shout in someone’s face.

Therefore, if you’re ever being yelled at, you could say “wind your neck in” to instruct your aggressor to step back and stop yelling. Likewise, you might use it as a way of saying “calm down.”

Occasionally, people use this phrase as a synonym for “don’t rubberneck.” According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “rubbernecking” is defined as:

  • the activity of looking at something in a stupid way, especially when this involves driving more slowly to look at an accident.

In short, rubbernecking is the opposite of minding one’s business. As such, you could say “wind your neck in” when instructing someone not to rubberneck or, more specifically, to mind their business.

Wind Your Neck In – Origin

Although it is not especially clear where this phrase comes from, most etymology sources identify it as a British idiom.

Some sources suggest that it is more specifically an East End London saying. On the other hand, Eric Partridge asserts in his Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English that it developed among pilots in the British Royal Air Force in the 1930s to mean stop talking.

As this phrase has developed to mean various different things, its true origins may always be a point of contention.

Is “Wind Your Neck In” Rude?

You would generally use the phrase “wind your neck in” as a synonym for “calm down,” “shut up,” or “mind your business.” Therefore, it’s safe to say that this phrase is not very polite.

People in Ireland, Britain, and even the US tend to accept that this is a rude phrase that can be used against someone who is acting stupidly or aggressively. However, the fact that it’s often a response to rudeness doesn’t make it any less rude itself!

So, if you have no interest in confrontation, you may want to avoid using this phrase! It should definitely be avoided in formal situations. However, if banter is normal in your friend group, you can probably use it with impunity.

Wind Your Neck In – Synonyms

We’ve already mentioned what “wind your neck in” means. Nonetheless, here is a list of some of its synonyms to make things easier:

  • Shut up
  • Calm down
  • Pipe down
  • Quiet down
  • Mind your business
  • Stop staring
  • Quit yelling
  • Quit being so aggressive
  • Chill out
  • Get it together
  • Compose yourself
  • Simmer down
  • Settle down
  • Look away from there