What's the meaning of have head in the wrong place?

Is a 19 year old too young for a 28 year old?

I don't see it working out but there is no harm in trying. Most 19 year olds have their heads in the wrong place though.

5 Answers 5


It means something along the lines of "they aren't thinking straight" or "they aren't thinking about the right things, or the things they should be thinking about". In the example you provided, it appears the statements are referring to a 19 year old having an intimate relationship with someone much older, which many would think is an inappropriate endeavour, or the result of not thinking things through clearly.

  • I think it's a little different than that. I don't think it's saying that, because the 19-year-old is dating someone much older, that's an example of them having their head in the wrong place. Instead, I think it's advising the 28-year-old to NOT date the 19-year-old, because the 19-year-old won't have their head in the right place - i.e., they won't have the right level of maturity to be paired up with a 28-year old.
    – J.R.
    Jun 28, 2012 at 18:53
  • 1
    You may be right, my opinion is that the phrase could be taken either way without further context. Regardless, the question was about the term "head in wrong place" which has nothing to do with whether the relationship advice is being directed at the older or younger person.
    – bee.catt
    Jun 28, 2012 at 19:26
  • You are absolutely right on both counts: (1) without any further context, either one could be a valid interpretation; (2) regardless of the interpretation, the term itself implies cloudy judgment, or misaligned priorities, or warped thinking. "Head in the wrong place" is like "head in the clouds" or "not thinking clearly" or (as an exclamation): "What are you thinking??"
    – J.R.
    Jun 28, 2012 at 20:10
  • I agree except on the 'head in the clouds' part. To me it seems this is more about being lost in thought (which may be perfectly sound and reasonable thoughts), and thus being unaware of what going on around you.
    – bee.catt
    Jun 28, 2012 at 20:43
  • I think there's some room for interpretation there. Some dictionaries define the idiom to mean "flighty"; and define "flighty" as "Characterized by irresponsible or silly behavior." But I think I've heard that same phrase applied to daydreamers, too, so you've got a point.
    – J.R.
    Jun 28, 2012 at 21:32

Be certain, if you use the phrase, always to use a possessive to modify head. The title of this question makes a rather unfortunate omission.

The idiom being discussed here is

to have one's head in <place name>

as in

  • He had his head somewhere else/in the clouds/in the wrong place,

and it means what the other answers say it does.


This is a completely different idiom, with a completely different meaning

to have head (in <place name>)

as in

  • He had head somewhere else/in the clouds/in the wrong place.

Executive Summary: Determiners are not always optional.


Extremes might be "head in the sand" and "head in the clouds" (luftmensch). There's also "head in the game," that is, in the right place:

Eighteen thousand pounds of milk, as was suggested by Mr. Miller would not need over a twenty-gallon can of starter to ripen that cream properly. Of course I was speaking to the buttermaker that has not got his head in the game. If he had his head in the game he will not only have it on the starter, but will have it on the quality of the cream he is getting. His head will be in the game and he will see that he gets good cream. When you get cream that has gone beyond that stage, I do not think there is a creamery in Iowa large enough hold starter enough to make it good.

Seventh Annual Year Book Part VII, Iowa Book of Agriculture, 1907

  • "Head in the sand" is more about intentionally ignoring something because it's uncomfortable to acknowledge; the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and shouting LALALALA when someone is saying something you don't want to hear. Whereas "Head in the clouds" refers to someone who daydreams or gets caught up in their thoughts to the point of becoming unaware of their surroundings. "Head in the game" seems more closely related to the phrase in the OP...if your head is in the game, you are thinking about the task at hand.
    – bee.catt
    Jun 28, 2012 at 19:32

It means that they're not very sensible.


A 28-year-old (usually) has adult responsibilities and as Barrie says, sensibilities. A 19-year-old has likely never held down a "real" job, lived on their own, or been responsible for bills. Most of the things a 19-year-old spends their money on are frivolous.

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