Keeping the peace and olive branches (Idioms for becoming friends again after an argument)

Listen to the author reading this blog post:

close-up photograph of a person holding a small olive branch, with leaves and dark olives, in their cupped hands
oonal/iStock/Getty Images Plus

by Kate Woodford

Earlier this month, we published a blog post on idioms used to describe people arguing. Today’s post follows on from that and focuses instead on the nicer area of becoming friends again after an argument. Again, we’re looking at idioms and phrases with this meaning.

A few idioms can be used to mean ‘stop arguing with someone and become friends again’. For example, you can say that you make (your) peace with someone, or you bury the hatchet.

Anyway, I’d better go and make my peace with Ellie.

For now, the pair have buried the hatchet.

If you wipe the slate clean, you deliberately forget about disagreements you have had with someone in the past and start your relationship again:

I was prepared to forget about our differences and wipe the slate clean.

In UK English, the idiom sink your differences has a similar meaning, but it suggests that two people or groups agree to stop arguing in order to work together, often to oppose someone or something else:

The two parties eventually sank their differences and formed a coalition to oppose the government.

Someone who holds out or extends an olive branch does or says something to show that they want to end a disagreement with someone:

For a while, she appeared to be holding out an olive branch.

Sometimes, it’s impossible to agree with someone on a particular subject, in which case you might suggest that you agree to differ or agree to disagree, meaning that you both accept that your opinions are different:

I think we’ll just have to agree to differ on this one, Alex.

Sometimes an argument is solved when another person becomes involved. In UK English, someone who pours oil on troubled waters does or says something in order to calm people down and stop them arguing:

However, in my attempt to pour oil on troubled waters, I somehow made things worse.

Someone who keeps the peace succeeds in preventing arguments between other people:

My siblings don’t always get on so it’s my job to keep the peace.

If you want to suggest to someone that they forget about disagreements they have had with someone in the past, you might tell them to let bygones be bygones:

It’s been almost a decade since you two fell out. Can’t you just let bygones be bygones?

Finally, we use the idiom water under the bridge for saying that arguments (or bad experiences generally) that happened in the past belong in the past and are not important anymore:

We fell out over a guy when we were at college, but that’s water under the bridge now.

I hope you enjoyed my selection of idioms. Wishing you a happy, argument-free week!

25 thoughts on “Keeping the peace and olive branches (Idioms for becoming friends again after an argument)

  1. roland especel

    Dear Ms Woodford,

    As a foreign retired teacher of English, your contribution to enrich our stock of idioms is a blessing. For some crazy motive, I was not aware that you also provide a spoken alternative which I have just heard. What a pleasure to have this pleasant link to the author.
    Kind regards,
    R. E.

    1. Kate Woodford

      What a lovely comment – thank you! Actually, the audio element is new so I’m not surprised you didn’t know about it. I’m very pleased you like it!

  2. Thanks Kate, for sending your English idioms…
    We enjoy reading and adding our idioms
    I liked this idiom that says “Sink your differences”
    Olive branches arrived from the Middle East,
    Was never applied there …
    But it seems will be applied in the west …
    Thus let us sink into deleting differences
    In Olive Lands young lads are killed every day
    Who cares as far as world rulers permitted the tyrants, to prevail
    In the olive lands
    Where Jusis starved under the olive tree for 40 days…
    In this era, all religions lost their faiths
    Careless to save innocents from graves…!


    1. Terry

      First time reading you blog as I just happened on it coincidentally. I am curious what encouraged the form and the topic that you have chosen to express your knowledge Kate? Also, what to look forward to? Thank you

      1. Kate Woodford

        Hi Terry! Actually, a friend used the expression ‘olive branch’ and it got me to thinking about other ways of saying the same thing. So that was the inspiration behind this post. Best wishes.

  3. S. Saran

    Very nicely explained idioms which we can use in our daily speaking or writing. Thanks for the great job done!
    S. Saran

  4. Anna

    Thanks for this great collection of peace making / keeping idioms! My personal favourite, which didn’t feature in your article, is mend (your) fences, I’ve always found its imagery powerful.

      1. Kate Woodford

        Marius, how interesting. It’s never occurred to me that it’s a rather odd phrase but you are absolutely right. Thanks!

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