To be "at odds" means being in some sort of disagreement or conflict. For example, a person may say this when he means statistics are in contradiction with his research or that his wants are in conflict with his needs. Sometimes people are even at odds with each other. For instance, a husband may feel at odds with his wife over the family grocery shopping budget. This phrase is an idiom, which means people are not supposed to take it literally; they are instead supposed to understand the figurative meaning of the phrase, which is in conflict or contradiction.
Often, people use idioms because they allow for a more colorful way of speaking. Such phrases spice up language that may at times seem monotonous or even dull. The commonly used phrase "at odds" is an idiom and provides an interesting way of indicating conflict, disagreement, and contradiction. Idioms such as this one are often used in verbal speech, but some people use them in written works as well.
It often helps to consider examples when trying to understand the meaning of the phrase "at odds." One good example to consider involves statistics and research findings. A scientist, for example, may state that his research findings are at odds with the science world's currently accepted statistics. He may also use this phrase to state that his findings are in conflict with those of another scientist.
Sometimes the phrase "at odds" is used to indicate conflict between people. For example, spouses may feel in conflict or disagreement with each other when it comes to budgeting or deciding who is responsible for certain household tasks. Coworkers may sometimes feel in conflict with each other as well. For example, team members may disagree with each other when it comes to deciding how to proceed with a project for which they are both responsible.
In some cases, people may even state that inanimate objects are at odds with each other. For example, an individual may state that a carpet is in conflict with a sofa. In such a case, this might mean that the sofa does not coordinate well with the couch in terms of its size, style, color, or current position in a room. Likewise, an individual may use this phrase to state that a person's outfit is in conflict with his body type, which usually means his clothing choice is not well suited to his body size or shape.