What does the idiom "as a last resort" mean?

Are you using the idiom as a last resort but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the as a last resort idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "as a last resort"


The phrase ‘as a last resort’ is an idiom which generally means ‘in the final instance’ or ‘only when all other options have been exhausted’. This phrase implies that all other attempts to resolve a situation have failed, leaving the individual or entity with no other alternative than to take desperate measures or risk the unknown.


The phrase ‘as a last resort’ first appeared in English in the 16th century, a time in which it was used to describe the ultimate act of desperation. The phrase itself is derived from the Middle English term ‘resort’, which was used to mean ‘a place to go for help’. The phrase has since evolved to be used in contexts in which the speaker has reached the end of the line and is being forced to take riskier measures.


The phrase ‘as a last resort’ is commonly used in both spoken and written English, although it is more often used in spoken English. It is usually used when the speaker is trying to explain that they have exhausted all other possible options and are now being forced to take action which they are not entirely comfortable with. It is also used to emphasize that something should only be done as a last resort and not due to laziness.

Example Sentences

  • We tried every other option, but as a last resort, we had to take out a loan to cover the cost.
  • My doctor only recommended surgery as a last resort, when all other treatments had failed.
  • I know you don't want to move, but it might be something you have to consider as a last resort.
  • If the negotiations fail, we might have to take legal action as a last resort.

The meanings of the words in the "as a last resort" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.


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