There is an idiomatic expression in Turkish for describing very heavy things: "Heavy like a dead donkey" (Eşek ölüsü gibi ağır).

In English, there is a dead weight but it is not quite similar. Also, it has two meanings, the first of which is related to heavy weight but used for people in certain contexts. I'm not sure if it used for objects also. And the usage of the second meaning seems like more common. (It might need analysis).

1. if someone is a dead weight, they are very heavy and difficult to carry, often because they are not conscious. Tom was a dead weight and her muscles ached as she carried him upstairs.
2. something or someone who prevents other people from making progress We must free ourselves from the dead weight of history. She's just a dead weight on the business at the moment.
Source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/a+dead+weight

I think there is a misconception of dead being heavier than alive and it is reflected to languages also but technically it is not correct. A dead body has the same weight as a live body. The misconception comes from the fact that a live (and conscious) person can distribute weight and adjust the center of gravity for a better balance. But, "dead weight" is the center of mass being wherever supported, lacking any effort on their part, and therefore concentrated in one spot, more or less.

Why am I saying all of these? Because there is too much technicality and different senses behind a dead weight.

Is there any word, idiom or other fixed phrase to place in a natural-sounding sentence? As in:

  • heavy like a __________


  • as heavy as a __________

For example:

The box was heavy like a ________; I couldn't carry it by myself.

Are these usages flexible enough to allow the slot to be filled with different words that convey heaviness?

Other than that, is there a single word that means "very heavy" or "extremely heavy" ?

  • 6
    Millstone, anvil or anchor are the usual words in English. All are heavy things. And it's heavy as an anvil, heavy as an anchor, heavy as a millstone. As, not like. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 1:58
  • Actually, it's as heavy as...
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:18
  • 2
    Nowadays, many people fill in that blank with a curse (usually the f-bomb). In that phrasing, like and as seem to be interchangeable. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:38
  • "as heavy as: a herd of elephants" also: a pile of bricks; a mountain; a prisoner's chains; a bad conscience; a pig; a dead whale .... Of course, Prof's already provided the most common one: a millstone.
    – Kris
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:19
  • I definitely think of the 2nd meaning of "Dead weight" unless it is used in a clearly technical context. There's a good article discussing the term: dailysciencejournal.com/…
    – Richter65
    Commented Nov 7, 2019 at 16:58

4 Answers 4


The most common idiom for something heavy is not a single word. You will hear it commonly when people are trying to lift heavy things:

This weighs a ton!

It's really more of a hyperbole than an idiom, but it is what's said.

  • 1
    This answer is what we use more commonly as is displayed by a fireman who tries to pick up Arnold Schwarzenegger but couldn't and says "This guy weighs a ton" in the movie "terminator 3." This should fit the bill.
    – vickyace
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:39

I think that a known expression to refer to something very heavy is:

As heavy as lead

Ngram shows that its is usage has been decreasing in last decades but it is still used.

Lead is known for its high specific gravity, which I think is the reason why it is used to refer to something very heavy.

  • "specific gravity". That's a typo, I am sure.
    – R Sahu
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 4:10
  • As heavy as osmium. Commented Dec 7, 2021 at 12:43

...heavy like a bag of bricks.

  • 1
    This answer could be improved if you tell us more about why you think it's the right answer. For example, is this expression very commonly used, or only used in some places and situations? In what context would it be appropriate to use?
    – aedia λ
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:31
  • It's a bit of a spin-off from the coupled rhetorical questions similar to: "What do you have in this bag? Bricks?" There are different variations, but the rhetorical questions always involve some container that is filled or packed and the offered answer is always claimed to be "bricks" by the questioner, who is typically both the person asking the question and the one carrying the referenced item for its original/true owner. So, "a bag of bricks" would not be the equivalent of a common idiom, but would be more likely recognized from this commonly used bit of banter.
    – user79850
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 2:43
  • @user79850: It would be nice if you can incorporate your comment into your answer and with some possible sources and usages. It would be a good answer.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:10

Heavy as a dead minister

Heard this just now in Bryson's 'Notes from a Big Country' who gives it a New England origin or at least relatively recent common usage in New England, specifically New Hampshire early to mid-20th century. Meanwhile, this radio show describes the phrase as originating in 19th century Kentucky with the first occurrence in a newspaper.

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