Down To the Wire

This is another in a long line of idioms that come from horse racing. If a horse race goes down to the wire, it is a very close race and we don’t know who the winner is until the very last moment.

When a race goes down to the wire, it means that the first and second place winners finish the race very close together so that we do not know who will win until the last possible moment when the finish line is crossed.

Meaning of Idiom ‘Down to the Wire’

Down to the wire means the very last possible moment or to the very end.

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We usually talk about things ‘going down to the wire.’ Competitions and negotiations are common subjects of this idiom.

Examples Of Use

“It looks like the budget negotiations will go down to the wire, with the president threatening another shutdown.”

“I’m always down to the wire with my Thanksgiving cooking. I never even have time to freshen up before the family arrives.”

“The 100-meters race went down to the wire and, if not for the cameras, there would be no clear winner.”


In horse racing of the 1800s, before cameras were employed, it was common practice to stretch a wire across the track at the finish line, thus marking the end of the race. ‘The wire’ was extended to general use during the 1900s.

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