Last Straw, the

Also: The Final Straw

Meaning of Idiom “The Last Straw”

The idiom ‘the last straw,’ as in “that’s the last straw,” refers to a minor happening, circumstance, etc. which, when added to a whole string of other annoyances, is finally too much to bear. When something is the last straw, a negative consequence is about to occur. This consequence could be a disaster, or simply a loss of control or temper.

The idiom “the straw that broke the camel’s back” has the same meaning and is the ultimate source of this expression. See below.

Usage

“I’ve given you three written warnings, but you’re still not doing your job. This is the last straw, You’re fired!”

“Judith’s relationship with Jerry had been crumbling for months but when she saw him talking with his ex-girlfriend, it was the final straw. She dumped him.”

Origin

This idiom originates from the ancient Arab proverb “the last straw breaks the camel’s back,” which refers to one small thing added to another until finally, the last one, though trivial, is too much. The proverb alludes to a camel having items loaded onto its back, on after another, until finally, one last item immobilizes the camel. Other forms of this proverb have been used through the centuries:

  • Bramhall, in Defense of True Liberty of Human Actions (1655): “It is the last feather may be said to break an Horses back.
  • Publications of Colonial Society of Massachusetts (1954): “It is certainly true that the last feather will sink the camel.”
  • Charles Dickens in Dombey and Son (1848): “As the last straw breaks the laden camel’s back, this piece of underground information crushed the sinking spirits of Mr. Dombey.
  • I. Banks in Manchester Man III. (1876): “The last straw breaks the camels back.”

(Source: Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs)

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