Cut off your nose to spite your face


      • self-sabotage
        To harm oneself or make a situation worse in an attempt to harm someone else

      • stubbornness
        To refuse to do something that would ultimately benefit oneself, out of spite or stubbornness

    Examples of Cut off your nose to spite your face

    • Alice's boss had asked her to conduct a presentation at the annual sales conference. Alice was confident in her skills, but she also knew that her coworker Bob was equally talented. Being jealous and envious of Bob, Alice sabotaged Bob's presentation by deleting all his slides just a few hours before the conference. As a result, Bob's presentation failed horribly, and Alice was not given the chance to present as well. Alice ended up losing her job because her boss favored Bob's quality work over Alice's poor professionalism. By cutting off Bob's chance to shine, Alice had cut off her own nose to spite Bob's face.

      This idiom means to behave in a way that causes oneself harm or disadvantage in order to hurt someone else. Alice's actions were counterproductive as she lost her job because of her envious behavior. By causing Bob's presentation to fail, she ended up hurting herself as well. Her impulsive decision negatively affected her professional career and reputation, thereby damaging her own nose figuratively.

    • Belinda refused to attend a crucial meeting because her boss insisted that she wear a dress instead of her favorite jeans. The refusal resulted in her being overlooked when the promotion was announced.

      Belinda's decision to miss the meeting because she was unwilling to wear a dress was akin to cutting off her nose to spite her face. She let her preference for jeans prevail over the opportunity to advance her career. This idiom highlights the absurdity of sacrificing something important for a minor issue.

    • After John's sister criticized his choice of girlfriend, John broke off all communication with her. Although their relationship was strained before, John's actions worsened it.

      John's decision to cut off communication with his sister because of her criticism of his girlfriend was like cutting off his nose to spite his face. By dramatically reducing contact with his sister, John was damaging a relationship that was already tense. This idiom highlights the folly of reducing contact with someone because of a difference of opinion.

    • The student decided to cancel her classes and stay at home instead of attending the exam. The absence resulted in an across-the-board loss of credits for the term.

      The student's decision to skip her exam in order to stay at home was akin to cutting off her nose to spite her face. She sacrificed an entire term's worth of credits because she didn't want to attend a single exam. This idiom illustrates the severity of the consequences that can arise from a decision that prioritizes a minor issue over a major one.

    • After the boss revealed a confidential project to James, James shared the information with a competitor. Although James was eventually fired, he never regretted his decision.

      James' decision to share his boss's confidential project with a competitor was like cutting off his nose to spite his face. By betraying his employer, James sacrificed his own job security for the sake of his competitor's benefit. This idiom highlights the intricacy of workplace dynamics, and the potential downsides of prioritizing the short-term benefits of others over one's own long-term interests.


    The idiom "cut off your nose to spite your face" is often used to describe self-sabotage or stubbornness. In both cases, the intention is to harm oneself in an attempt to harm someone else or prove a point. This can manifest in different ways, such as refusing to take a beneficial action out of spite or intentionally causing harm to oneself as a form of revenge.

    In the context of self-sabotage, the idiom implies that the individual is so focused on causing harm to someone else that they are willing to harm themselves in the process. This can be seen as a form of self-destructive behavior, as the individual is willing to sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of hurting someone else.

    On the other hand, the idiom can also be used to describe stubbornness. In this case, the individual is so determined to prove a point or maintain their pride that they refuse to do something that would ultimately benefit them. This can result in negative consequences for the individual, as they are cutting off their own potential for growth or success.

    Origin of "Cut off your nose to spite your face"

    The origin of this idiom is believed to date back to the 12th century, and it has roots in various cultures and historical events. One possible origin is from the practice of self-mutilation as a form of punishment or atonement in ancient times. Cutting off one's nose was seen as a severe and irreversible act, and this may have influenced the idiom's meaning of self-sabotage.

    Another possible origin is from a medieval tale in which a man cuts off his own nose in a fit of anger, only to realize the foolishness of his actions when trying to spite his enemy. This story may have contributed to the idiom's use to describe stubbornness and the folly of acting out of spite.

    In modern times, the idiom is commonly used to caution against self-destructive or irrational behavior, reminding individuals to consider the consequences of their actions before acting out of spite or stubbornness.