Stick your Neck Out – Meaning, Origin & Examples

stick your neck out meaning and examples, explained below

The idiom “stick your neck out” is an expression often used to describe someone taking a risk or putting themselves in a vulnerable position, usually on behalf of others or for a particular cause.

This idiom typically implies a sense of bravery or fearlessness, despite an apparent threat or danger looming.

For example, if someone defends a colleague in a heated meeting, they might be “sticking their neck out” for that person.

chrisAbout the Author: has a PhD in Education. He has been a teacher in schools and universities and has taught English as a Second Language in Colombia. He is former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.

Stick Your Neck Out Idiom Origins

The exact origins of the idiom “stick your neck out” are a bit elusive, but interestingly, Google’s historical data demonstrates that it clearly gained popularity in the 1920s in the English language, as shown in the graph below:

Some potential etymological origins of the term are outlined below:

  • Animal Vulnerability: In the animal kingdom, especially among turtles and other creatures with extendable necks, sticking the neck out can expose one to risks but can also be necessary to move, observe, or consume food. The neck tends to be a vulnerable area on many animals; thus, sticking it out is a risky move that can lead to harm if there is a present threat.
  • Guillotine and Execution Practices: Some sources allude to a more gruesome origin related to execution practices, particularly those involving the guillotine, where literally sticking your neck out could be a fatal decision.
  • Giraffe Metaphor: Another interpretation could be derived from the characteristics of giraffes which stretch their necks out to reach food on taller trees, thus exposing themselves to potential predators.

Regardless of its exact origin, today, when someone “sticks their neck out,” they’re taking a risk or making a sacrifice, often to aid someone else or to take a stand on an issue.

The following Google chart data illustrates that the usage of this phrase has remained fairly consistent in English vernacular throughout the years, indicating its potency and applicability in various contexts.

10 Examples in a Sentence

  • “She decided to stick her neck out for the new employee when others were skeptical.”
  • “You really stuck your neck out for me in that meeting, and I appreciate it.”
  • “Why should I stick my neck out for them when they’ve never done the same for me?”
  • “He refused to stick his neck out and vote against the majority.”
  • “By whistleblowing on the corrupt organization, she truly stuck her neck out.”
  • “If you’re not willing to stick your neck out for your beliefs, they can’t be that important to you.”
  • “He’s not one to stick his neck out for other people.”
  • “She stuck her neck out by publicly supporting the controversial policy.”
  • “Investing in a startup can feel like sticking your neck out.”
  • “She was afraid to stick her neck out for fear of retaliation.”

Practice Questions Worksheet for Students

Question 1: If someone is unwilling to stick their neck out for a colleague, how might they be feeling?

  • a) Fearful or cautious
  • b) Excited and eager
  • c) Indifferent
  • d) Courageous

Question 2: Which of the following situations best describes someone sticking their neck out?

  • a) Ignoring a friend’s problem
  • b) Not participating in a protest
  • c) Defending a co-worker unjustly blamed
  • d) Staying silent during a controversial debate

Question 3: Why might someone be hesitant to stick their neck out?

  • a) Fear of consequences
  • b) Assurance of a reward
  • c) Lack of opposition
  • d) Peer pressure to conform

Question 4: In politics, sticking your neck out might mean:

  • a) Supporting a popular bill
  • b) Going against party lines
  • c) Avoiding controversial topics
  • d) Agreeing with the majority

Similar Idioms

1. Go out on a limb

Definition: To put oneself in a risky position. In a Sentence: “He went out on a limb to advocate for her promotion.”

2. Put oneself in the line of fire

Definition: To take a risk or face danger, often for others. In a Sentence: “She put herself in the line of fire by challenging the CEO.”

3. Take a bullet for someone

Definition: To endure hardship or danger for another’s sake. In a Sentence: “He said he would take a bullet for his brother.”

4. Risk life and limb

Definition: To do something very dangerous. In a Sentence: “Firefighters often risk life and limb to save others.”

5. Venture into the lion’s den

Definition: To enter a dangerous or threatening situation. In a Sentence: “She ventured into the lion’s den when she confronted the hostile crowd.”

6. Put oneself on the line

Definition: To risk one’s safety, reputation, or position. In a Sentence: “He put himself on the line when he signed the petition.”

7. Lay it on the line

Definition: To risk something important. In a Sentence: “She laid it on the line when she invested all her savings into the startup.”

8. Play with fire

Definition: To engage in risky or dangerous activities. In a Sentence: “Investing in volatile markets is like playing with fire.”

9. Jump on the grenade

Definition: To sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others. In a Sentence: “He jumped on the grenade by taking the blame for the team’s mistake.”

10. Roll the dice

Definition: To take a risk or gamble. In a Sentence: “She rolled the dice when she moved to a new city without a job lined up.”

11. Put one’s cards on the table

Definition: To be completely open and honest. In a Sentence: “He put his cards on the table and admitted his mistakes.”

12. Take a leap of faith

Definition: To believe in something without needing evidence. In a Sentence: “Joining the new company was a leap of faith.”

13. Take a stab in the dark

Definition: To guess without having adequate information. In a Sentence: “Predicting the market trend right now would be taking a stab in the dark.”

14. Be in the hot seat

Definition: To be in a position where one is subject to criticism or judgment. In a Sentence: “The CEO was in the hot seat after the company’s scandal was revealed.”

15. Have skin in the game

Definition: To have a personal investment or stake in something. In a Sentence: “It’s evident she has skin in the game given her dedication to the project.”

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