A cross to bear

A cross to bear is an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, ballpark figure, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression a cross to bear, its etymology and some examples of its use in sentences.

A cross to bear means that someone has an unpleasant situation that they, alone, must deal with. When someone has a cross to bear, he can not share that burden with anyone else. A cross to bear describes an onerous task, a difficult relationship, or a particularly stressful situation. The term a cross to bear came into use in the 1500s, and is derived from the story of Jesus’ death in the Gospels. As part of his punishment, Jesus was forced to carry his own cross to the place of his crucifixion.


Being on the receiving end of maybe the most humbling NCAA Tournament upset ever has been Virginia’s cross to bear all season. (The Akron Beacon Journal)

According to Viganò, those failures are Pope Francis’s cross to bear, and he “must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance … be the first to set a good example to Cardinals and Bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them.” (Rolling Stone Magazine)

That being said, most people will give one day and maybe two to watch the show, but after that, it’s your own fault for waiting too long and if the episode is spoilt for you that’s your cross to bear.  (The Independent)

But there’s some sense of the metaphorical myth of a mariner’s cross to bear, a psychological burden which permeates this dark, enigmatic dance. (Milwaukee Magazine)

Leave a Comment