The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back


The last straw,
The final straw

Meaning of Idiom ‘The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back’

The straw that broke the camel’s back 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 or the straw the broke the camel’s back, a negative consequence is about to occur. This consequence could be a disaster, or simply a loss of control or temper.

The idioms last straw or final straw have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably. The straw that broke the camel’s back is the original proverbial idiom and the source of all three variations.

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Examples Of Use

“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.”


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, one 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.
  • Isabella Banks in Manchester Man III. (1876): “The last straw breaks the camels back.”

(Source: Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs)

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