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

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase once and for all, 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 once and for all used and what is its meaning?

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

From Shakespeare to Social Media: The Evolution of English Idioms

English idioms have been around for centuries, with many originating from sources like literature, mythology, and everyday life. Shakespeare, for example, coined many phrases that are still used today, such as "break the ice" and "heart of gold." Over time, new idioms have emerged, with social media and popular culture providing rich sources of inspiration. For instance, the phrase "throwing shade" came into use in the 1990s thanks to ball culture, but has since been popularized by social media.


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