Preferably an idiom just as picturesque and succinct. Thanks.

Here's the original meaning:

The expression 掩耳盗铃 comes from a story about a person who decided to steal a bell. However, the bell was too heavy to carry and the thief decided to break it into pieces. He was afraid the sound would attract attention, so the thief blocked his ears and continued to smash the bell believing that as long as he could not hear the bell's sound no one else could either.

4 Answers 4


Oxford, CC-CEDICT, A Chinese-English dictionary all use the following idiom to define 掩耳盗铃:

(to) bury one's head in the sand

The Free Dictionary defines it as:

bury one's head in the sand and hide one's head in the sand; have one's head in the sand

Fig. to ignore or hide from obvious signs of danger. (Alludes to an ostrich, which is believed incorrectly to hide its head in a hole in the ground when it sees danger.) Stop burying your head in the sand. Look at the statistics on smoking and cancer.

Like-wise Oxford Pocket also has:

(to) bury one's head in the sand like an ostrich

It's not a perfect match, per se, but it's a pretty close English idiom.

  • 1
    Line Dict: bury one’s head in the sand iciba: plug one's ears while stealing a bell ; bury one's head in the sand ; deceive oneself ; play the ostrich,
    – user6065
    Mar 2, 2015 at 2:36

No exact translation or idiom comes to mind, but I think a good expression/phrase would be to 'create a false sense of security'.

The expression 'bury one's head in the sand' suggests that one is aware of the danger but simply chooses to ignore or hide from it although the perceived level of risk/danger remains the same to the person, whereas when you create a false sense of security (whether you are consciously aware of it or not) then you do believe that the level of risk/danger has been reduced, as the person in the story did.


Answer from zdic.net

plug one's ears while stealing a bell;deceive oneself as an ostrich that buries its head in the sand


Blocking your own ears does not hide the sounds of your stealing a bell.

This is my own translation. Please comment.

  • Yes, that is what it means. I just wondered if there was a similar English idiom. Mar 2, 2015 at 20:31
  • But if no one was around, then there was no sound. I digress. (Sure there was vibration, etc) Mar 2, 2015 at 21:30
  • The sensation of the sound is the sound itself. The sensation of colour is the colour itself. There is no sound or colour outside the mind. Mar 2, 2015 at 22:41
  • 1
    So, to be exact, your translation should be "blocking one's own ears does not prevent sound waves from reaching other ears." Mar 2, 2015 at 23:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.