What does the idiom "once and for all" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does once and for all mean? In what situations is once and for all used?

Meaning of "once and for all"


The phrase 'once and for all' is an idiom that means to do something in a decisive manner, with the intention of finishing it completely and permanently. It is typically used to describe the end of a long-standing debate or argument, or the successful completion of a task.


The phrase 'once and for all' appears to have originated in England in the early 19th century. It is derived from the phrase 'all at once', which was first used in the mid 17th century. The phrase 'all at once' meant to do something quickly, simultaneously or in a single event. The phrase is still used in this sense today, though its meaning has been slightly altered over time to include the idea of permanency.


The phrase 'once and for all' is typically used to describe the end of a long-standing discussion or debate, or the successful completion of a task. The phrase can also be used to express an intention of finally dealing with an issue or problem, as in the phrase 'Let's settle this once and for all'. It is mainly used in spoken language, though it can also be used in written English.

Example Sentences

  • We finally decided to end the argument once and for all.
  • Let's get this done once and for all.
  • I'm determined to finish this project once and for all.
  • Let's put this issue to bed once and for all.

The meanings of the words in the "once and for all" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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