This idiom is used in a fable from "Bechsteins Märchen" in a few places. Here is one example:

"Auf der Stelle sollst du sterben dafür, dass du mir hast wollen den Hals umdrehen".

I want to know what it means in English. The literal translation does not make sense to me.

I thought it might mean "to chop off the head". There is an English expression "to wring someone's neck" which means "to do violence to someone" so perhaps that is what is meant, but I am just guessing.


Your assumption is correct - it actually means "to break someone's neck", or (more figuratively), generally "to kill someone".

It is assumed to stem from the barbaric way chicken used to be slaughtered.

  • 1
    The easiest way to kill a bird is to grab its body and head and wring the neck. That's where the idiom originates.
    – RHa
    Jul 17 '18 at 8:03
  • 1
    I do not think that this is any more barbaric than how chicken are treated today. Of course, you did not say that it is.
    – Carsten S
    Jul 17 '18 at 16:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.