"Off with his head". That is 'chop off his head'. I saw it in 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. The Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting 'off with his head!' or 'off with her head!'

So,'off with his head' is 'chop off his head'. If so why 'with'? '(Chop) off his head' does not have 'with'. The structure of this sentence is somewhat confusing me(non-native). Is 'Off' a verb or a adverb? Very confusing. If the Queen had said 'chop off his head!', it would easy for me to understand the structure of the sentence. but why 'off with his head?'

So, first, is 'Off' a verb or a adverb? Does 'off' mean 'chop off' or 'cut off'?
Second, This 'Chop off his head' does not have 'with', but why 'off with his head' does have 'with'?

  • Think of it as having a similar structure to "on with the show". The structure is (something) with (noun), where the 'something' looks like a preposition but acts like a verb.
    – Lawrence
    Dec 27, 2017 at 16:51
  • It's a phrase, not a sentence, but conveys the same meaning as the sentence you mentioned. Dec 27, 2017 at 17:01
  • 1
    "off" can be a verb as in "He offed him," to mean, "He killed him," or imperatively, "Off and don't come back!" In your sense, however, it's a phrase and not a sentence. In both of your instances, "off" is an adverb and not a "preposition", so this may be where your confusion lies.
    – Nick
    Dec 27, 2017 at 19:53
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    This is a great learner's question. Up with the vote button!
    – J.R.
    Dec 27, 2017 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


Compare Off with you! which is a way of saying "Scram!" That is, an imperative construction that means "Be off!" or "Get out of here!"

Off with his head! is a way of saying "Cut his head off!" or in long-winded paraphrase, "Make it so his head is off!"

The most difficult thing to explain here is the preposition with. I would venture to say it means "with respect to", or "regarding". The object of with can be something regarded.

What's up with that?

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