'Bury Your Head in the Sand' to Avoid Difficulty

04:31 October 22, 2022

'Bury Your Head in the Sand' to Avoid Difficulty

Hello! And welcome to Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English!

On this program we dive into words and expressions in the English language. We go beneath the surface of an expression and explain it more fully. We give examples, notes on usage, and sometimes we tell where the expression came from.

Today we talk about avoiding difficult subjects. One way you can do this is to bury your head in the sand.

Burying your head in the sand means that you are avoiding, or trying to avoid, a situation. You do this by pretending that it does not exist.

Some word experts say this expression comes from a common, but mistaken, belief about a large flightless bird. Some believe that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when frightened. The idea is that an ostrich believes that if it cannot see any danger, the danger is not there. Experts say the birds do not really do, or think, this. They do, however, dig a lot in the sand for food but not to avoid danger.

But you can use the expression bury your head in the sand to describe people who refuse to think about unpleasant but important facts. You can use it for those who hide or ignore clear signs of danger. These types of people are all burying their heads in the sand.

The expression means the same if you drop the word “bury” and just say someone has their head in the sand.

The expression can also be used as an adjective. A head-in-the-sand approach, attitude, opinion, or method refuses to recognize a problem. And they will probably not be very effective. For example, the teacher had a head-in-the-sand idea of her students. She did not see that they were not understanding her classes.

Organizations can be described as head-in-the-sand — so can people.

Now, let’s hear two friends use the expression to bury your head in the sand.

A: The storm clouds are starting to move in. We should get going. Have you packed your emergency bag?

B: No. I’m not leaving.

A: What? What do you mean? There is a class 5 hurricane coming! The whole city is being evacuated!

B: I’ve been through hurricanes before. I’m going to ride out the storm in my apartment.

A: Look, now is not the time to bury your head in the sand. This is serious! Even if nothing happens to this apartment building, food and water will be hard to find. Electricity will go out.

B: It’ll be fine.

A: No! It won’t! Now get your head out of the sand, pack a bag, and come with me!

And that brings us to the end of this Words and Their Stories! Until next time, I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


pretend –v. to act as though something were true or is one way when it is not true or is another way

evacuate –v. to leave or be removed from an area because of danger


We want to hear from you. Do you have a similar expression in your language? In the Comments section, you can also practice using any of the expressions from the story.

We have a new comment system. Here is how it works:

Write your comment in the box.

Under the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Click on one image and a box appears. Enter the login for your social media account. Or you may create one on the Disqus system. It is the blue circle with “D” on it. It is free.

Each time you return to comment on the Learning English site, you can use your account and see your comments and replies to them. Our comment policy is here.

Google Play VOA Learning English - Digdok