I've come across the phrase "have a heated face off with (or against) somebody" quite often. Sometimes it is used without the indefinite article "a" or used as a noun phrase by using the noun word "face-off".

I can roughly guess its meaning to be "being very angry and ready to fight or quarrel bitterly with somebody".

I consult some dictionaries but can't find this phrase while the verb phrase face off is included. Then how to understand and analyse this commonly used phrase?

I am now highly suspicious of the correctness of this phrase. I just can't accept face off as a noun structure (face-off is a noun structure). Can people say a sentence like "Someone has a (heated) face off" without an object?

  • The original phrase sounds perfectly correct to me. It would sound very strange to say "Jim has a heated face-off" without "with Bob" because a face-off is by definition a confrontation.
    – stangdon
    Dec 17, 2015 at 12:46

1 Answer 1



verb (used with object), faced, facing.

to confront courageously, boldly, or impudently (usually followed by down or out): He could always face down his detractors.

Face Up and Face Down mean roughly the same thing contextually, with both implying the facer (for lack of a better word) has the upper hand in the given situation.

A Face Off is two (people/groups/teams) unwilling to back down from one another. There is no advantage readily apparent on either side. You see this most commonly used in Sport; in Hockey, for instance, the match begins with a Face Off (two players, on either side, waiting for the referee to drop the puck.) Boxing/MMA also has a Face Off before the fight starts.

Now, that said, in the context of your question, I imagine Face Off to mean a War of Words between two individuals. Neither want to back down because both feel they are right - and only they know why the confrontation did not escalate into a proper scuffle.

war of words


1.a prolonged debate conducted by means of the spoken or printed word.

A rather kid-friendly definition or war, but such is "verbal combat."

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