Dictionary.com

over the top

Save This Word!

1

Surpassing a goal or quota, as in The new salesmen are excellent; they were over the top within the first six months. [Mid-1900s]

2

Over the parapet of a military trench, as in The lieutenant sent fresh troops over the top. This usage dates from World War I.

3

Extreme, outrageous, as in This comedian's style goes over the top. [Slang; late 1900s]

QUIZZES

QUIZ YOURSELF ON "EVOKE" VS. "INVOKE"!

Call upon your favorite grammar inspirations to tackle this quiz on the differences and uses of "evoke" and "invoke."
Question 1 of 7
“Evoke” and “invoke” both derive from the same Latin root “vocāre.”

Meet Grammar Coach

Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar helpImprove Your Writing

Meet Grammar Coach

Improve Your Writing
Write or paste your essay, email, or story into Grammar Coach and get grammar help
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

BEHIND THE PHRASE

What does over the top mean?

The phrase over the top is most often used to describe something that is excessive or outrageous, as in The flashy supervillain planned crazy schemes that were over the top.  

Less commonly, over the top can refer to surpassing a goal, as in The promising rookies were over the top, scoring more shots than anyone expected. 

Over the top can also refer to soldiers going over a military trench or parapet, as in A new squad of reinforcements went over the top to help the front lines.

Example: The garish millionaire’s party was over the top with pop star performances, gold medals for everyone, and a huge fireworks display. 

Where does over the top come from?

The first records of over the top as a figurative phrase come from around 1935. The first records of the military usage come from around 1915 and refer literally to going over the tops of trenches that were common during World War I.

Today, the phrase over the top almost always refers to things that are considered excessive or outrageous. You are likely to see this phrase used quite a lot on social media and the internet, where sharing outrageous or extraordinary content is important for getting attention. In particular, over the top is used to describe people or things that are especially funny, flashy, or bizarre.

Did you know … ?

What are some synonyms for over the top?

What are some words that share a root or word element with over the top

What are some words that often get used in discussing over the top?

What are some words over the top may be commonly confused with?

How is over the top used in real life?

Over the top is often used to describe people, things, or behavior that is unbelievable or excessive.

Try using over the top!

Is over the top used correctly in the following sentence?

Tim’s wife told him to make a small lunch, but he went over the top and made a four-course meal.

How to use over the top in a sentence

FEEDBACK