Head in the Sand (Idiom Meaning and Use)

To use the phrase, “head in the sand,” will often reference someone’s lack of courage in the face of adversity. Coming from the ancient observation of ostriches, it means that someone refuses to accept the reality happening right in front of them.

“Head in the sand” is a metaphoric way to iterate the cowardice a person exudes to the world. Most of the time, the connotation isn’t positive. While it’s not an insulting thing in and of itself, it often does portend a negative characterization.

“Head in the Sand” Etymology”

The use of “head in the sand” means someone who’s denying, ignoring, or expressing cognitive dissonance about the truth of something. The first occurrence this came from Pliny the Elder of ancient Rome’s observation of ostriches. He noted they would bury their head into the sand, but to avoid predators.

However, this is not true. Ostriches don’t slink away when confronted with a predator; quite the opposite actually. The only time they do is for the purposes of eating. Regardless, this misinterpretation became the famous idiom still used today, “head in the sand.”

Examples of “Head in the Sand”

Review these sample sentences below to understand how to use “head in the sand” within proper sentence structure. Note that a verb, usually “bury,” always precedes the phrase. “Head” must always carry numeric and possessive agreement as well.

A nation’s leaders buried their heads in the sand during one of the largest protests in history.

Justin would rather stick his head in the sand than face the fact he screwed up.

Opting to bury her head in the sand, Ursula refused to listen to complaints.

Go on, find a nice hole to shove your head into the sand like you always do when I take issue.

They use video games as a means to put their heads in the sand rather than address this dystopia.

Far too many people will bury their heads in the sand rather than see how history is repeating.


“Head in the sand” is a popular idiom in the English language to refer to the behavior of a coward. This is usually someone who refuses to face, confront or stand up to another person or thing that challenges them. Even though its initial premise was incorrect from the outset, it has been with us since ancient Roman times.