Our content is reader-supported. We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links.


As much as we’d love to entertain our metal-music fans, this article is mainly written for those fascinated by metal language. ‘Metal language’ is not a term you might have come across, but there is no qualified definition for it. Let us be the first ones to do so.

Metal language is any mention of metals, metallic objects or properties in a sentence, phrase, metaphor or idiom. Metal language carries a uniquely bold and magnetic touch to it and sounds quite compelling.

There are quite a few phrases in the English language that mention different metals and metallic objects and properties to convey a certain idea. These idioms possess a unique magnetism and sound quite bold and convincing.

To say the least, they are quite interesting. Some metallic phrases even contain words that have absolutely no association with the actual meaning. However, once you acquire the basic knowledge about a few of these catchy phrases, using them becomes somewhat a talent.

So, who really invented these ‘metallic’ phrases? Aren’t metals only for building and demolishing stuff? While looking up these metallic idioms is as easy as ABC, finding out how and where they came from is a hard row to hoe. For some metallic expressions, you’ll find pretty exciting stories; however, seldom will you make any significant discoveries for others. Let’s have a deeper look into some of these magnetic phrases.

Examples of Metal Language – Idioms that Mention Metals

“Heavy as Lead” – “Lead Foot”

Are you trying to impress your crush with your fast driving skills and appear sophisticated? This phrase is just for you! Lead, though not the heaviest metal, has developed a widespread reputation for being heavy metal.

Traditionally used to weigh heavy objects, lead has since become the element people use when describing something immoderately heavy. According to some, it could be anything, from an overfilled luggage to one’s crushing sorrows, as put beautifully by Anthony Trollope:

“She was all alone in her misery and could see no way out of it. The diamonds were heavy as a load of lead within her bosom. And yet she had persevered.”

In the 16th century, the term leaden-foot was used for someone who moved slowly. Now, if you gave this slow-moving foot to a person operating a vehicle, for instance, a car or motorbike, the image forms of a motorist driving his bike at high speeds, hence the term lead foot.

“Gold Standard”

Is gold the most expensive metal in the world? No. Would a typical individual still like to be considered gold standard? Most definitely, yes!

Initially, the gold standard referred to a system that used gold supply as the backing of a currency to regulate its value. However, the United States stopped using the gold standard during the Great Depression, but the term persisted. It is now used to describe a successful thing against which others are compared or judged.

Moreover, gold is reserved for top-ranking awards and achievements, such as the gold medals awarded to athletes. It may also be used for objects of desire, e.g., Golden Fleece.

“Tin Ear”

Tin is a malleable silver-white metal used for making strong materials, including bronze and pewter. Then why is it used as an idiom equated with deafness? We don’t really know. Perhaps it’s one of those expressions you just have to accept as a part of the English language.

However, some still suggest it is named after the medical condition tinnitus, which relates to noises in the ear. Others believe it is linked to the onetime use of metal ear trumpets by those hard of hearing. Alternatively, some ascribe it to cauliflower ear, earlier used instead of the tin ear; however, now the former means bruised and swollen ear.

“Iron Fist”

There’s no denying it. Iron is a strong element. The idiom Iron Fist means to preside over a community or group in a very strict, often cruel way.

The term comes from its use for making sturdy alloys, such as cast iron and steel. This one, we believe, means exactly what it indicates. Iron Fist has also been used to describe great personalities, such as the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed “The Iron Lady,” due to her fierce and unyielding nature.

“Silver Screen”

Another idiom is “silver screen”, literally meaning the bright lights, glitz, and stardom of showbiz. Silver element is often mentioned alongside gold for its great value and luster. In the early Hollywood years, this metal was used to embed the surface of movie screens to enhance their reflective capacity.

Therefore, by the 1920s, “silver screen” became the alternate metonym for the movie business. And now, it is used normally by the commoner as well as elite to define the glamor of Hollywood.

“Getting Down to Brass Tacks”

An alloy of copper and zinc, brass is used in musical instruments, plumbing fixtures, and fastening items (pins, screws). It also efficiently carries the status of being bold; brazen means to be self-assured and confident, but it can also refer to the boldness to the point of disrespect.

The phrase “getting down to brass tacks” means to get down to the real deal, or discover the real facts. You might have read this phrase being used in newspaper articles and other pieces where the writer wants to leave an impact.

Although not known for certain, some relate get down to brass tacks to the brass-made fasteners used in securing upholstery to furniture framework. some say it originated from the practice of adorning your gun’s butt with brass tacks for each kill in the wild old American west.

Onaizah Abdul Wahid
Onaizah Abdul Wahid