Is there any source or explanation for the phrase「頭にきた」and why it means to be angry?

For example:


Why does "what he said and the way he said it came to my head" mean that I should be annoyed or irritated? Why is 「頭」important and not something else? At first glance, I thought that the phrase was similar to "気づく", but it is not.

  • 1
    we have "don't let it get to your head" in English.
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:04
  • @Flaw: Yes that's true. However, that phrase isn't necessarily associated with being "irritated". I thought it was used in the context of someone being prideful and telling them to be more humble.
    – Chris
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:30
  • There's also "go to your head". Hm... I'm not sure of their meanings anymore.
    – Flaw
    Commented Nov 7, 2012 at 18:31

3 Answers 3


I think of it as blood rushing to my head when I am angry.

  • 3
    I don't know if it's etymologically accurate, but it makes sense to me. Compare the similar phrase 頭に血が上る.
    – user1478
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 13:23
  • 2
    +1: To back this up: 怒りや悲しみや驚きなどのために、頭に血がのぼる (reference).
    – Jesse Good
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 23:04

This may not be the answer your looking for. But maybe if you're looking for an easier way to remember that. We do have a phrase in English kind of like that: "it got to me." If you tried to explain that, you'd run into the same problem.


Perhaps the body is imagined as a vessel that can contain things, frustration and anger being some of those things, and the theoretical limit is when we're filled up to the head.

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