What does “not for the faint of heart” mean?

Discover the origins, definitions, and cultural context of this idiomatic expression. Learn why it is commonly used to describe challenging or dangerous situations. Explore synonyms and modern usages.

Understanding the Phrase

“Not for the faint of heart” is an idiomatic expression used to describe something that is not suitable for people who lack courage or are easily frightened.

The phrase is often used to describe situations that are challenging, dangerous, or emotionally taxing.

Origins and Definitions

The phrase “not for the faint of heart” has its roots in the medical world, where the term “faint of heart” was used to describe patients who could not handle stress and were advised to avoid stressful situations.

The term “faint-hearted” dates back to around 1400 and means cowardly or timorous.

The term “faint” itself originates from the Old French word “fainte,” which means weak or feeble.

Cultural Context

The phrase “not for the faint of heart” is commonly used in English-speaking countries, and it reflects the importance of courage and bravery in these cultures.

In many Western societies, bravery is seen as a desirable trait, and people who lack it are often seen as weak or inferior.

Does “down for the count” have a similar meaning to “not for the faint of heart”?

Yes, the meaning of “down for the count” is similar to “not for the faint of heart.” Both phrases convey the idea of a significant challenge or obstacle that requires determination and resilience to overcome.

They suggest that the situation is daunting and not easily tackled.

Modern Usage

Today, the phrase “not for the faint of heart” is used in a wide range of contexts, from extreme sports to horror movies.

For example, a bungee jump might be described as “not for the faint of heart,” while a horror movie might be described as “too scary for the faint-hearted.”

Example sentences:

  • Skydiving is not for the faint of heart.
  • The haunted house was not for the faint-hearted.
  • The surgery was not for the faint of heart.


  • Not for the weak-willed
  • Not for the timid
  • Not for the chicken-hearted