What does the idiom "Burn bridges" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Burn bridges, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression Burn bridges used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Burn bridges"


The phrase ‘burn bridges’ is an idiom which is used to describe the act of doing something that causes permanent damage in a relationship, meaning that there is no way to fix the damage. It implies that a point of no return has been reached, and it is impossible to go back to the way things used to be.


The origin of the phrase ‘burn bridges’ is disputed. However, the most likely connection comes from the painting by military engineer Christoph Muecke, which depicts a bridge being burnt during the Seven Years War. It is believed that the phrase was first used as a metaphor for destroying any alliance or relationship between two parties.


The phrase ‘burn bridges’ is used as an idiom to refer to a situation when someone has done something that causes permanent damage to a relationship, such as cutting off all communication or making irreparable decisions. It implies that the relationship is beyond repair, and there is no way to go back to the way things used to be. This phrase is often used in the context of romantic relationships, work situations, and friendships.

Example Sentences

  • John was fired from his job last week, and he really burned bridges with his boss. Now, he has no chance of getting his job back.
  • Jane and her ex-boyfriend had a really nasty breakup, and she burned bridges with him. She doesn't even want to speak to him anymore.
  • I wouldn't do anything drastic, because you don't want to burn bridges with your colleagues.

The meanings of the words in the "Burn bridges" 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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