One of my favorite songs on my school years was Drop Dead Legs from the album "1984" of Van Halen. (It was one of the first cassette I bought).

My language is Spanish. I've always imagined that the song is about a woman who has fat legs, in the shape of a drop of liquid. This idea was confirmed after the TV series Drop Dead Diva, in which the protagonist is a large woman.

Currently I am learning English and I noticed that the word "drop" refers not only to the object (tear drop, rain drop), but also a verb related to falling, release, lower (the type of moves that would make a water drop). And when I look for the translation of "drop dead legs" I find results that are more associated to the verb, and in Spanish are incomprehensible (ex. soltar piernas muertas).

I guess then that drop dead is an idiom, but I could not find its true meaning. And what interests me most is knowing that relates to death.

3 Answers 3


I've always imagined that the song is about a woman who has fat legs, in the shape of a drop of liquid...

No. Compare "Drop dead gorgeous". The legs are shapely. So shapely, a (male) person looking at them might keel over, presumably from too rapid a heart beat, or possibly a sudden loss of blood to the brain :)

See also: she's a real knockout; she's stunning.

P.S. In the interest of gender equality, I should point out that there's a similar phrase which is used of men, mainly by female speakers:

He's to die for.

I have also heard it used of rich chocolate desserts...which brings us to He's a dish!

  • 3
    suden loss of blood to the brain - charmingly put!
    – Stephie
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 12:37
  • 4
    So gorgeousness is like a Star Trek phaser, you can set it to stun or kill. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 12:48
  • 2
    They that have power to hurt and will do none ...they are the lords and owners of their phasers.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:02
  • 3
    +1 But I think the hedge on (male) is not only inaccurate but, nowadays, unnecessarily discreet. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:48
  • Yeah, a "ladykiller" is a very good looking man.
    – Ringo
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 7:07

To "drop dead" is to die suddenly. Picture someone walking down the street who suddenly has a heart attack: he falls -- drops -- to the ground, and he's dead.

The phrase "drop dead" is sometimes used as an expression of anger or hatred. "I'm fed up with your lies! You can just drop dead for all I care!" That is, I wish you would die. It's not usually meant literally.

As TRomano says, the phrase can also be used in a playful sense. "Whew! When I heard I actually got that big promotion, I could have dropped dead!" Something is so fun and exciting that we imagine it is on the border of causing a heart attack or a stroke.

From this we get "drop dead" as an adjective: "It was a drop-dead deal", or, like here, "She was drop-dead beautiful."

I've never heard the song before -- I'm not much of a music fan -- but I just looked up the lyrics. "Drop dead legs, pretty smile / Hurts my head, gets me wild" etc. He's saying the girl is so pretty she drives him crazy.

  • 1
    Given the OP Spanish background, I might add that in portuguese (Brazil?) we have an expression "de cair morto" that has the same meaning. In that sense, the best litteral translation for that CD would be "Piernas de caer muerto". If you try to translate only "drop dead" you'll certainly find the meaning you really want ;) Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 15:18
  • @igorsantos07 Just curious: Why did you put a question mark after "Brazil"? Are you not sure what country you live in?
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 18:42
  • no, but that might be something that only makes sense in Brazilian Portuguese :) unfortunately I cannot edit the comment anymore to reflect that better... oh well. Commented Oct 2, 2016 at 0:08

While the term "drop dead" has been adequately explained here, there is a crazy amount of depth to how the Van Halen song was created. Please be patient.

The song is in the key of D. Edward Van Halen tuned the low E string down a whole step to D, to enrich the tone of the tonic D chord. In guitar parlance, this is called "Drop D."

There is a segment of the main riff that precisely mimics the action of a tremolo arm, but is in reality Edward bending the A-string followed by sliding up to a D followed by an open D string. I labored for years under the misimpression that he was hitting an open D and rocking the tremolo arm, so uncannily does his "legato" run mimic that technique. Edward filed this recorded riff as "Legatos," which means "long" or "smooth" in music notation.

"Drop D" "Ed" " "Legatos." Drop Dead Legs. Roth wrote lyrics off that portmanteau. These Van Halen guys were smarter than the average bear.

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