Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Definition by Google:

tip·toe walk quietly and carefully with one's heels raised and one's weight on the balls of the feet.

But can I use it in a situation where the pension isn't walking?:

The girl twisted around and, tiptoeing like a ballerina, kissed the boy.

share|improve this question
4  
No. You seem to imply rising on one's toes (or the tips of toes, to be precise.) There must a different word for that. –  Kris Aug 10 at 5:09
1  
You'd more likely say "rising up on her tiptoes", or "stretching up", "getting up" etc. Tiptoeing does imply walking (specifically, sneaking quietly). –  Dan Bron Aug 10 at 5:09
    
Republicans lost the election because they were tip-toeing around the issue of the invasion of Iraq, unwilling to disown their hero and yet incredulous that they had even given their hero support for the invasion. –  Blessed Geek Aug 10 at 6:13
    
BTW it's an interesting observation that standing on your "tip-toes" almost always means on the "balls of your feet". It's almost impossible (perhaps impossible) to get literally on the tips of your toes, unless you have your weight on something you are holding on to perhaps overhead. –  Joe Blow Aug 10 at 9:09
    
The "twisting around" bit does imply that she's actually moving though. I think a case can be made for using tiptoeing. –  Mr Lister Aug 10 at 13:20

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Tip-toes or otherwise spelt as tiptoes is the expression used to talk about the position of somebody's feet, i.e. standing or walking on the tip of their toes. Hence in the OP's example, either phrase would be acceptable:

The girl twisted around and, like a ballerina, standing on her tip-toes....

The girl twisted around and, like a ballerina, walking on her tiptoes...

To tiptoe is a verb which primarily means to walk silently and carefully on the balls of one's feet, similar to a person who is creeping or sneaking up behind another. If a person is tiptoeing he or she is walking and trying not to make any noise. However in the OP's question it seems clear that the girl is a good deal shorter than the boy and in order to reach his mouth to kiss him, she has to stand on her tiptoes.

share|improve this answer
    
On tippy-toe(s) is another way of saying it. –  Spehro Pefhany Aug 10 at 14:13

Tip-toe means 1) tip-toe (as you defined it) or 2) treading very carefully and silently (metaphorically on tip-toes.) It can also be used metaphorically to indicate how one acts around a volatile or violent person (similar to walking on eggshells.)

You can't stand in the same spot and be tip-toeing. You can, however, stand on your "tip-toes".

share|improve this answer

It would be normal to say 'You will have to stand on tiptoes to reach the things on that shelf'.

But 'tiptoeing', I'm fairly sure, involves walking.

share|improve this answer

The confusion is this:

tip-toe generally means standing up on your toes. (ie, standing as high as possible with your heels off the ground.)

Now, tip-toeing pretty much only means walking around on tip-toes

BUT...

tip-toe can indeed also be used to mean tip-toeing. Go figure.

So, you can say "tip-toe over here buddy!" you would then see Buddy tip-toeing over there.


Regarding the sentence in question, it's just very awkward and very bad. What are you trying to actually say? Do you mean the person is pirouetteing?

(If you do not know what that means, check dictionary "an act of spinning on one foot, typically with the raised foot touching the knee of the supporting leg.")

Do you mean the person is doing s "pique" on the spot? (Sort of tiny little steps as you spin around.) Do you mean the person has pointe blocks on and is on pointe?

A good tip for good writing is, I think, only use analogies in areas in which you are expert

For example: say I wrote "He was pulling back on the wooden stick, like a jet pilot pulling the joy stick in a banking mach curve...."

The problem is this: I have utterly no idea what a "jet" is, if jets have "pilots", if these devices have "joy-sticks" and if so what those are, whether or not you "pull" those, and I don't know what a bank, mach or curve is in an aircraft or if you use any of those in that way.

In the example at hand, I wouldn't mention ballerinas for any reason. It just sounds silly, you know?

There will be something in your field of experience and expertise, that writes a better analogy.

share|improve this answer

In this specific context, you could use:

  • standing on her tiptoes/tip-toes (used as a noun)

    The girl twisted around and, standing on her tip-toes, kissed the boy.

But you could also use one of these:

  • standing on tiptoe

    The children stood on tiptoe in order to pick the apples from the tree. (reference)

    The girl twisted around and, standing on tiptoe, kissed the boy.

  • standing tiptoe

    She had to stand tiptoe to reach the shelf. (reference)

    The girl twisted around and, standing tiptoe, kissed the boy.

You would not use "tip-toeing", as that really means to walk quietly.

share|improve this answer

As @JoeBlow writes in the comments, "on tip-toes" almost always means supporting one's entire weight on the balls of the feet.

To support one's entire weight literally on the tips of the toes is impossible for most people; such a feat takes years of practice. Practice usually only performed in one discipline; the one you named: ballet.

Ballerinas (it's almost always the female performers) are taught to dance en pointe, literally on the tips of their toes, in order to achieve an air of sylvan grace. So, if you wanted to evoke a ballerina and her grace, you could say:

The girl turned around and, rising like a ballerina en pointe, kissed the boy.

Or, a little more technical (but evocative):

The girl, like a dancer, sprang to relevé, performed a pirouette, and kissed him.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.