steel

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nerves of steel

The ability to stay calm at all times, even during pressure-filled situations. If you're going to be a neurosurgeon, you need to have nerves of steel—there's no time to panic when you're operating on someone's brain. My mother had nerves of steel, and she never backed down from danger.
See also: nerve, of, steel

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

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

nerves of steel

If someone has nerves of steel, they do not get nervous or frightened even in very difficult or dangerous situations. You need nerves of steel in this business and I've got them. You need nerves of steel to be a formula one driver.
See also: nerve, of, steel
References in classic literature ?
Ralph Nickleby, who was proof against all appeals of blood and kindred--who was steeled against every tale of sorrow and distress-- staggered while he looked, and went back into his house, as a man who had seen a spirit from some world beyond the grave.
Flora, patient, steeled against every hurt and every disgust to the point of wondering at herself, said: "You push your dislike of--of- -Roderick too far, papa.
She met my eye as unflinchingly as if her bosom had been steeled with conscious innocence.
But now, resolved and desperate, she steeled herself against him.
I had steeled myself to brazen it out, though I was trembling inwardly; but the enormous strength of the man was too much for my fortitude.
With a resolute self-grip, as she crossed the parlor and passed the door to Sarah's bedroom, through the thin wood of which came elephantine moanings and low slubberings, she steeled herself to keep the color in her cheeks and the brightness in her eyes.