Thanks for the Heads Up - Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did your friend just tell you to tune into the news for a special announcement? If that’s the case, you could reply with “thanks for the heads up.”

This post unpacks everything you need to know about the origin and meaning of this idiomatic phrase.


Thanks for the heads up” is a way of telling someone that you appreciate them giving you an advanced warning of an event. The phrase can have both a negative and positive connotation. Typically, the negative version comes laced with sarcasm at the other person.

The “heads up” in the phrase refers to the action of keeping you informed. For instance, if someone tells you that there is a roadblock on your way home, you could say to them, “thanks for the heads up” as a way of being appreciative for the information.

As a result, the other person will feel pleased with your response, and they will notify you of anything other concerns in the future.

However, the other side of the phrase has a sarcastic tone. For instance, someone could ask you if you watched the sporting event over the weekend, and you could reply with, “I had no idea it was on; thanks for the heads up.”

With this version of the phrase, the other person will feel sheepish, and they might not bother alerting you in the future.

Example Usage

Chad: “The new episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is out.”

Dennis: “Thanks for the heads up; I’ll stream it when I get home.”


Kelly: “They are planning a protest downtown, so avoid your normal route home after work.”

Janice: “Thanks for the heads up, Kelly.”


Holly: “Best Buy is running a crazy special on UHD TVs this weekend, like 50% off.”

Gary: “Thanks for the heads up, I need a new TV, and that sounds great.”


Thanks for the heads up” might sound like it has its roots in modern language. However, the use of the phrase actually traces back to the early 19th century. The first use of the phrase appears in a story by Miss Edgeworth. The author used the phrase as an interjection, but its original use no longer applies to the saying.

A Florida newspaper was the first to use the phrase as an adjective in its more modern adaptation. The Washington Post was the first publication to use the phrase as a noun in 1979. It’s still a very popular phrase today. You probably hear it all the time and use it yourself when thanking people for an advanced warning.

Phrases Similar to Thanks for the Heads Up

  • Thanks for the warning.
  • A shot across the bow.
  • Advance notice.

Phrases Opposite to Thanks for the Heads Up

  • You didn’t let me know in time.
  • Why didn’t you alert me?

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Thanks for the heads up.

Ways People May Say Thanks for the Heads Up Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase “thanks for the heads up” to describe the act of elevating their heads upwards. This phrase is an idiom and not a literal meaning.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Thanks for the Heads Up

You can use the phrase “thanks for the heads up” in both social and professional settings. Typically, you’ll be using the phrase to thank someone for giving you vital information that prevents an accident, mistake, or bad situation from occurring. You can also use the term sarcastically, using it to tell someone that they should have given you notice on a specific subject, occasion, or event.

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