“Peace of Mind” or “Piece of Mind”: Which Is It?
There’s nothing I enjoy more than an accidental homonym which can turn a common phrase into a hilariously, unintended pun. Whenever a villain in any random cartoon angrily claims “I’ll give him a piece of my mind”, you can cut to me giggling, thinking of them offering the hero “peace” of any kind.
So why does peace of mind sound so right to me? Well, because both expressions are correct, they just mean totally different things:
The phrase peace of mind describes the mental state of tranquility or protection you enjoy when free from worry.
The idiom to give someone a piece of your mind means to angrily express your opinion to someone about something they have done wrong.
Conversely, piece of mind is a faulty combination of the two previous expressions, and should never be used.
“Peace of mind”: Definition and examples
The phrase peace of mind refers to the relaxed mental state you feel when you’re freed from all sources of worry or trouble. In that sense, it is very similar to the expression putting your mind at ease.
Here are a few examples of peace of mind used in a sentence:
Placing a baby monitor in your child’s bedroom will give you peace of mind, knowing that he’s sleeping soundly.
Go on and pay for the extra travel insurance, just so that you’ll have peace of mind on your vacation.
Peace of mind has been used in literature, pop culture and the common vernacular for over three hundred years. You can find an early example in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, where the phrase was used to explain specifically what the Lilliputians were not: “These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a minute's peace of mind; and their disturbances proceed from causes which very little affect the rest of mortals”.
Today, you’ll find it as the commonly used advertising trope, every company stating that their product, and their product only, can give you the “peace of mind” you deserve.
“A piece of one's mind”: Definition and examples
On the other hand, to give someone a piece of your mind evokes slightly less warm and fuzzy feelings. This expression, which is technically an idiom, means to tell someone what you really think of them, and not in such a nice way.
Here are a few examples of the idiom to give someone piece of one's mind used in a sentence:
My sister wore my favorite dress and ripped the back. I’ll give her a piece of my mind when I see her.
You really gave those guys a piece of your mind in the debate last night.
The idiom predates the use of peace of mind by around two hundred years, as its first recorded use was in an English letter from 1572 (note the older spelling): "Thus am I bolde to unfolde a peece of my mynde"—see Sir Henry Ellis, Original Letters Illustrative of English History.
It has stood the test of time and is still commonly used in daily life and pop culture, from the aforementioned villain to Everything But the Girls’ 1993 hit, “A Piece of My Mind”.
“Peace of mind” or “piece of mind”: Why all the confusion?
Many times, you’ll read that someone has reached “piece of mind”. What does it mean? Simply that the writer misspelled peace of mind, which is the only way to write this phrase.
The confusion is quite common and stems from the fact that peace and piece are homophones in English, meaning that they sound the same, despite being spelled differently and having distinct meanings. The only correct way you can use piece and mind in the same sentence is in the idiom to give someone a piece of your mind.
To make sure you always use the correct expression, try this simple memory trick: Peace of mind describes a moment of completeness, which is exactly the opposite of what a piece is!
In a nutshell
Not sure if you’re offering someone “peace of mind” or “a piece of your mind”? It could be the difference between a long-lasting friendship and World War III. Simply remember: Peace of mind is a positive state of relaxation, while the idiom to give someone a piece of your mind means that you will angrily disagree with them.
Now, you’re sure to never mix these up again (and accidentally offer to install your grandma’s new security system so you can give her a piece of your mind).
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Carley Slot-Altus, Knowledge Base Professional Team Lead at Wix
Star gazer, bird watcher, editing ninja.