over the top vs over the hill

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Sep 26, 2006
Member Type
Student or Learner

I had a discussion with my father, who is a literary translator (Tim Parks from English to Dutch, a.o.) about the use of 'over the hill' vs 'over the top'.

My father uses 'over the hill' for 'exaggerated' and to me that's wrong.

The context: I was participating in a televion SHOW for inventors, and everybody just had to be overly happy and enthousiastic, screeming and cheering, and I didn't feel like doing the same. When I made it to the final, the host asked me how it went in front of the jury, and I coldly said 'good' in stead of jumping and shouting hurray.

After having seen the show on TV, my father then wrote me that, although he understood that I didn't want to be overhappy, my anti-reaction was probably a bit 'over the hill'. I got his point, and he was right because my short answer did make me look arrogant and disinterested. But still, wasn't my anti-reaction a bit 'over the top' in stead of 'over the hill'?

My father stands by his wording, even after having consulted a translation dictionary, and it hurts me that I can't seem to convince him... So any clear, conclusive help would be warmly appreciated!

Thanks in advance,

Thomas (Belgium)


Nov 16, 2007
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
Current Location
"Over the Hill" means that something or more usually someone is past its or their best. The peak has been reached and the only way is down.

"Over the top" means exaggerated and I believe it originates from soldiers leaving the trenches to attack the enemy put themselves in danger. So if someone goes over the top it meant foolish behaviour that might be punished.
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