"from head to foot/toe" is an idiom and it means "completely"

They were covered from head to foot/toe in mud.

Can we use "from head to foot/toe" literally to express the direction?

For example, "let the fan blow on you from head to toe rather than from toe to head".

Note: the fan stands still, it does not oscillate.

See the picture below

enter image description here

  • Do you mean an oscillating fan? Or is the fan perched on a shelf? Sep 2 at 17:12
  • @TimR, the fan is not moving around. It stands still.
    – Tom
    Sep 2 at 17:20
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    Reversing the idiom alone won't clearly have the directional meaning you'd like it have, where the person being cooled is lying down and the current of air is blowing as shown in your diagram. But together with the diagram, it would. But if you make the diagram available, it would be better to say "Aim the fan at the top of you head so the air flows down the length of your body." Sep 2 at 17:58
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    The idiom is more likely to confuse things than clarify them. Sep 2 at 23:49
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    You don't use an idiom when (by an incredible coincidence) the idiom is literal in the situation at hand. This applies in all languages.
    – Fattie
    Sep 3 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


'From head to toe' is so commonly used as an idiom for completeness that it might confuse someone to use these words in the context of air movement. Perhaps saying 'let the fan blow at your head, towards your toes' would be clearer in this case?

Having said that, most people would still understand you if you said 'from head to toe'.

P.S. I love your diagram!


As others have said, it's a bad idea to use a well-known idiom to have its literal meaning.

That said, anything that is different from the exact words "from head to toe" is fine, even "from head to toes" is enough of a change, but it would be even better style not to make people think about that idiom at all, so myself I'd go with "from head to feet, rather than from feet to head".

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