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live in an/(one's) ivory tower

To reside or exist in a place or among a social circle that is characterized by effete academic intelligence and thus is out of touch with or aloof from the realities of life. I don't put much weight in the advice of a bunch of economists living in their ivory towers who've never worked a real job in their lives. It seemed easy to solve all the world's problems when I was living in an ivory tower. Now that I'm out of college, I realize things are so much more complex than I'd imagined.
See also: ivory, live, tower

*in an ivory tower

Fig. in a place, such as a university, where one can be aloof from the realities of living. (Typ—ically: be ~; dwell ~; live ~; work ~.) If you didn't spend so much time in your ivory tower, you'd know what people really think! Many professors are said to live in ivory towers. They don't know what the real world is like.
See also: ivory, tower

tower above someone or something

to stand or be much taller than someone or something. (Often used in exaggeration.) The basketball player towered above everyone else in the room. The new building towered above all the others in town.
See also: above, tower

tower head and shoulders above someone or something

1. Lit. [for someone] to stand much taller than someone or something. (Often used in exaggeration.) Bob towers head and shoulders above both his parents. The boys towered head and shoulders above the walls of the maze. They found their way around easily.
2. Fig. to be far superior to someone or a group. The new vice president towers head and shoulders above the old one. The chairman towered head and shoulders above the rest of the committee.
See also: above, and, head, shoulder, tower

tower of strength

Fig. a person who can always be depended on to provide support and encouragement, especially in times of trouble. Mary was a tower of strength when Jean was in the hospital. She looked after her whole family. Jack was a tower of strength during the time that his father was unemployed.
See also: of, strength, tower

tower over someone or something

to stand much taller than someone or something. Tom towers over his older brother, Stan. Tom towered over the little desk he had been assigned to.
See also: tower

a pillar of strength

someone who is emotionally very strong Roger was a pillar of strength when my father died.
See also: of, pillar, strength

an ivory tower

if you are in an ivory tower, you are in a place or situation where you are separated from ordinary life and its problems How much of the research done by academics in their ivory towers is ever read or published?
See also: ivory, tower

a pillar/tower of strength

someone who gives a lot of support to someone else who is in a difficult situation Roger was a tower of strength when my parents died.
See also: of, pillar, strength

ivory tower

A place or attitude of retreat, remoteness from everyday affairs, as in What does the professor know about student life, living as he does in an ivory tower? This term is a translation of the French tour d'ivoire, which the critic Saint-Beuve used to describe the attitude of poet Alfred de Vigny in 1837. It is used most often in reference to intellectuals and artists who remain complacently aloof.
See also: ivory, tower

tower of strength

A dependable person on whom one can lean in time of trouble, as in After Dad died Grandma was a tower of strength for the whole family. This expression, first recorded in 1549, originally was used most often to refer to God and heaven, but Shakespeare had it differently in Richard III (5:3): "Besides, the King's name is a tower of strength."
See also: of, strength, tower

tower above

or tower over
1. To appear at or rise to a conspicuous height above someone or something: The oak towered above the rest of the trees. The skyscrapers tower over the horizon.
2. To demonstrate great superiority over someone or something: In terms of performance, our record towers above that of any other company in this city. Her report stated that the legacy of Alexander's empire towers over all other nations of the ancient world.
See also: above, tower

ivory tower

n. an imaginary location where aloof academics are said to reside and work. Why don’t you come out of your ivory tower and see what the world is really like?
See also: ivory, tower
References in classic literature ?
On the other hand, I compared the disquisitions of the ancient moralists to very towering and magnificent palaces with no better foundation than sand and mud: they laud the virtues very highly, and exhibit them as estimable far above anything on earth; but they give us no adequate criterion of virtue, and frequently that which they designate with so fine a name is but apathy, or pride, or despair, or parricide.
After bruising myself severely, much to the amusement of the Martians, I again had recourse to creeping, but this did not suit them and I was roughly jerked to my feet by a towering fellow who had laughed most heartily at my misfortunes.
The swaying bulk towering high above him, and the ugly little eyes of the elephant watching his every move made Malbihn nervous.
I distinctly saw a high mountain, towering between the two gulfs of Ras-Mohammed.
They were hard at work there far into the night, and the towering pillar of dense green smoke that rose therefrom could be seen from the hills about Merrow, and even, it is said, from Banstead and Epsom Downs.
In the morning, I shall rejoice in the prospect of your coming, and in the evening dwell with delight on the happiness I have enjoyed in your presence; then too, when alone, I can call forth mighty pictures of the past, see vast horizons bounded only by the towering mountains of Pindus and Olympus.