How good is this compliment? When should you use it instead of saying you are smart or clever?

  • They're admiring the chunk of lettuce in your basket at the grocery store. – Hot Licks Jan 13 '18 at 20:34

High praise. It's a metaphorical use of head to mean what's contained within -- brains and the good sense to use them.

Also heard:

You have a good head on your shoulders.
You have a good head for [a particular subject].

For example, from The Ponca Tribe by J. H. Howard:

[T]he chiefs would appoint the leader. He was selected from among the bravest warriors. He had to have a good head and not to do things rashly or else the whole tribe would suffer.

  • This answer doesn't address the question of when to prefer clever or smart. The rest is very good, though. – aparente001 Aug 16 '15 at 4:07
  • Chacun à son goût. Preference here is a matter of opinion. – deadrat Aug 16 '15 at 4:23
  • On the other hand, if someone says "That guy has one hell of a neck on his shoulders" you can assume it's not a complement. – Hot Licks Aug 16 '15 at 11:51
  • I beg to differ. One's neck always completes one's shoulders. – deadrat Aug 16 '15 at 15:07

When someone says "you have a good head for something" they mean you have a natural ability to do something well.

It has the same meaning as "have a knack for something".

If you mean someone shows intelligence and good judgement instead of a special talent, use clever or smart.


Here are some cases where you might prefer this idiom over a single word, clever or smart.

  1. If you want to convey the "good judgment" part.
  2. If you want to use good head for something (something specific).
  3. If the look and feel (or sound) of an idiomatic expression appeals to you more than a one-word description does -- in the particular context.

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