No Holds Barred

Used as an idiom since around 1940.

Meaning of No Holds Barred Idiom

No holds barred means a situation without any restrictions, where anything is permitted. Anything goes.

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No holds barred is often mispronounced as no holes barred.

Examples Of Use

“The press conference started out normally but soon devolved into a no holds barred shouting match.”

“I’ll never go out shopping on Christmas Eve again, it’s a no holds barred mob scene!”


This idiom comes from the sport of wrestling. Usually, wrestling is regulated and certain holds or moves are against the rules or barred. However, sometimes bouts do not have such restrictions and are called no holds barred matches. These types of bouts can be very dangerous. As an idiom, the expression alludes to this situation where there are no restrictions or rules. It has been used figuratively since at least 1940.

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