what is the difference between "grit your teeth" & "grind your teeth"?

grind ​[intransitive, transitive] to rub together, or to make hard objects rub together, often producing an unpleasant noise

grind (together) Parts of the machine were grinding together noisily.

grind something (together) She grinds her teeth when she is asleep.

He ground the gears on the car.

grit your teeth

​to bite your teeth tightly together

She gritted her teeth against the pain.

‘Stop it!’ he said through gritted teeth.

Does "grind the teeth" mean the upper & lower teeth touch together & they move backwards & forwards?

& "grit the teeth" means the upper & lower teeth touch a little firmly together?

  • You can grind your teeth in your sleep, but you can't grit your teeth in your sleep. Gritting your teeth implies conscious intention, something that can't be done if you're not aware of what you're doing. Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 7:22

2 Answers 2


I'd say there is no major difference between them. Not just grind and grit your teeth, there are a few more words used for the same; say - gnash your teeth, or even clench your teeth. They all express anger.

Note that when you aren't angry, it could be a medical condition named Bruxism.

  • No, grit your teeth expresses resolution or endurance, as explained by Weather Vane. Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 13:41
  • @KateBunting the OP was concerned about figurative use i.e. an expression made by an angry person. And, I stated that in my answer. IMO, they are still the same! ;)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 6:11
  • No, the OP didn't mention anger. The two expressions are used figuratively to refer to different emotions. Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 9:03
  • @KateBunting I can think of three variations: grit when faced with hardship, clench when angry but silent, grind when suffering anguish. Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 17:10
  • @MaulikV OP doesn't mention figurative. The question asks about the physical movement of the teeth. Commented Nov 21, 2019 at 17:10

Although some dictionaries state that the phrases "grit your teeth" and "grind your teeth" both mean to be angry or suffer pain, my understanding is there is a difference. The first is a matter of resolve and the second a matter of experience.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex has

grit your teeth

COMMON If you grit your teeth, you continue to do something or accept a situation even if it is difficult or unpleasant.

There is going to be hardship, but we have to grit our teeth and get on with it. There were five games in nine days, but the players gritted their teeth and kept going.

Whereas the same dictionary has

grind your teeth

If someone grinds their teeth, they are angry about something, but do not express their anger.

We journalists, who once were just like him, grind our teeth as we contemplate his success.

So if I have to do a difficult job that I detest I will grit my teeth and get on with it. My teeth will be firmly clenched together.

If I am having a nightmare I might literally grind my teeth in anguish (I know someone who does this). My lower jaw will be moving from side to side, and the teeth rubbing against each other, sometimes noisily.

But usually, the expressions are figurative.

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