I am looking for an expression which would enhance the idea of wrestling. This is a text I am translating from another language (Greek) where the expression (ἀντιπαλαίω στῆθος με στῆθος) means literally "to wrestle against someone chest to chest". The meaning is that this is not just any wrestling, it is very real, physical, you can almost see the two men hitting each other's chests with their own...

The context where it is used goes something like:

The man withdrew to the backyard to wrestle against his enemy ________ (chest to chest?)

Looking up the expression "chest to chest", I received results for chest-on-chest, which is definitely not what I am looking for. The closest result was a word reference thread about the verbal expression to chest to chest someone, but I am sensing it is far too informal for what I need. Besides I am looking for an expression that would enhance the verb "wrestle", not a verb.

I would expect it is a repetitive expression like eye to eye, cheek to cheek. If this particular expression does not exist in English, is there an adverb that could replace it accurately?

  • 3
    Cheek by jowl or cheek to jowl. Idiomatic but not necessarily quite right.
    – Xanne
    May 21, 2022 at 19:52
  • 1
    Not exactly what you asked for, but: They went head to head. May 22, 2022 at 1:43
  • Are you sure that "ἀντιπαλαίω στῆθος με στῆθος" is the expression of an intensity of the fight rather than a mode, as for instance in "wrestle bare handed" or "wrestle bare chest"? It is not quite logical to announce the intensity of an action of that sort before it begins. In order to know that the fighting is fierce it must have been going on for a little while. You just don't decide that you are going to fight fiercely. One of the fighters might think that he or she will have no mercy (or state this intent), which entails that the fighting will probably be fierce, but it might not be.
    – LPH
    May 22, 2022 at 2:57
  • @LPH Your reasoning is very logical and you are right. However, this is a story accounted in the past, and the choice of words belongs to the author who already knows what happened, not to the man fighting.
    – fev
    May 22, 2022 at 12:54
  • It seems to me that "to" shows purpose, and so, whether man fighting or author, it wouldn't matter, but there might be a way to look at this preposition differently ; it is possible also that ancient Greek was not always strictly consequential in its formulations.
    – LPH
    May 22, 2022 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


Chest to chest is used in wrestling terminology. It is also mentioned as the original standing wrestling position in Greco-Roman wrestling in UWW international Greco-Roman rules in USA Wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling originates and gets its name from a style of wrestling found in ancient times like the one in ancient Greek Olympics.

Also the wrestlers will be encouraged / forced to wrestle chest to chest (the original standing wrestling position in Greco).

The wrestler who refuses to wrestle chest to chest will be considered passive.


A more general and common term that indicates fighting with physical contact is hand to hand.

involving physical contact or close enough range for physical contact
// hand-to-hand fighting


  • Although "chest to chest" is not idiomatic, it is so depictive that the meaning is very transparent and, used in the right context, it can have effect. So I actually went for "chest to chest" after consulting some of my proof readers. Thanks for confirming that with references!
    – fev
    Sep 8, 2022 at 13:26
  • "hand to hand" can mean fighting with swords or other melee weapons, so doesn't necessarily imply close contact in the way "chest to chest" does. It's a reasonable idiom for some contexts, though, if you don't need that emphasis.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 8, 2022 at 14:44
  • @fev chest to chest is completely idiomatic just like toe to toe, head to head, and hand to hand.
    – Lambie
    Sep 8, 2022 at 15:20

There's "toe to toe":

Go toe to toe: to be willing or able to compete or fight with someone in a strong, forceful, determined way
from Cambridge Dictionary

Toe to toe: (of two people) standing directly in front of one another, especially in order to fight or argue.
from Oxford Languages via Google

Toe-to-toe: slugging it out at or as if at close range
from Merriam-Webster

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