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have a mind as sharp as a steel trap

Fig. to be very intelligent. She's a smart kid. Has a mind as sharp as a steel trap. They say the professor has a mind as sharp as a steel trap, but then why can't he figure out which bus to take in the morning?
See also: have, mind, sharp, steel, trap

nerves of steel

Fig. very steady nerves; great patience and courage. I was scared to death, but Fred, who has nerves of steel, faced the thugs bravely.
See also: nerve, of, steel

steel oneself for someone or something

to prepare oneself for someone or something difficult or unpleasant; to get ready to face someone or something. Aunt Helen is coming for a visit. We should steel ourselves for her. I think something is going wrong. We had better steel ourselves for a shock.
See also: steel

steel someone against someone or something

to fortify someone against someone or something; to prepare someone to endure someone or something. I tried to steel Liz against Carl, who was bringing her some very bad news. We steeled her against the bad news.
See also: steel

*true as steel

very loyal and dependable. (*Also: as ~.) Through all my troubles, my husband has been as true as steel. Pedro was a staunch friend, true as steel.
See also: steel, true

have a mind like a steel trap

to be able to think very quickly, clearly and intelligently She'll be a brilliant lawyer - she has a mind like a steel trap.
See also: have, like, mind, steel, trap

nerves of steel

if someone has nerves of steel, they are very brave You'd have to have nerves of steel to play in front of a crowd this size.
See live on nerves
See also: nerve, of, steel

mind like a steel trap, have a

Be very quick to understand something, as in Aunt Ida may be old, but she still has a mind like a steel trap. This simile likens the snapping shut of an animal trap to a quick mental grasp.
See also: have, like, mind, steel

steel one's heart against

Also, harden one's heart. Suppress one's feelings for, as in He finally steeled his heart against them and refused the loan, or You'll just have to harden your heart and tell them the truth. This metaphoric idiom transfers making something hard to rendering oneself insensible or unfeeling. Versions of it date from the late 1500s. Also see heart of stone.
See also: heart, steel
References in classic literature ?
Yonder Woodpecker has a bill of steel, and he can use it well," said the councillor to him who stood by him.
The steel glimmers not for the carving of the banquet, It is hard, broad, and sharply pointed; The torch goeth not to the bridal chamber, It steams and glitters blue with sulphur.
I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of attention -- as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest here the descent of the steel.
I wonder, my Lord Guido, if my sword Is better tempered than this steel of yours?
But no sooner had the last word been sung than the holy man seized his steel cap, clapped it on his head, and springing to his feet, cried in a great voice, "What spy have we here?
Beneath the second dial he found the steel pin severed as in the other, but the controlling mechanism had first been set for a point upon the western hemisphere.
From bye-path, from woodland clearing, or from winding moor-side track these little rivulets of steel united in the larger roads to form a broader stream, growing ever fuller and larger as it approached the nearest or most commodious seaport.
For, don't you see, the railway men, machinists and engineers, iron and steel workers, do all of the vitally essential work in our machine civilization.
They produced fire by striking a bit of flint and steel together, but for the most part they ate their food raw.
Crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc jaws, silver craniums, platinum noses, were all to be found in the collection; and it was calculated by the great statistician Pitcairn that throughout the Gun Club there was not quite one arm between four persons and two legs between six.
For such was the compassion which inhabited Mr Allworthy's mind, that nothing but the steel of justice could ever subdue it.
There was nothing pretty about it, nothing divine--only two cowardly moving things that sat whetting steel upon stone, and a group of other moving things, cowardly and otherwise, that looked on.
I do not like your cold justice; out of the eye of your judges there always glanceth the executioner and his cold steel.
The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye'll taste this steel throughout your vitals.
Gleams, like pale long flames, trembled upon the polish of metal; from the flooring below the enormous crank-heads emerged in their turns with a flash of brass and steel -- going over; while the connecting-rods, big-jointed, like skeleton limbs, seemed to thrust them down and pull them up again with an irresistible precision.