At all costs and at any cost

At all costs and at any cost are two versions of the same idiom. 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 or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idioms at all costs and at any cost, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

At all costs and at any cost are two idioms that describe a situation in which the speaker is willing to do anything to attain a goal. No matter how big the effort, no matter what the speaker may sacrifice, no matter the price, the speaker is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve something. The phrases at all costs and at any cost came into use in the mid-1800s. Interestingly, the word cost in these two phrases may be an artifact of a definition of cost that has gone out of style. An early definition of cost was way, or course of action.


If you needed another reason to avoid coronavirus at all costs, here’s one. (The Week Magazine)

“There must be a bright line between aggressive advocacy and ‘win at all costs’ unethical conduct.” (The Baltimore Sun)

Does Iran Really Want to Build Nuclear Weapons at Any Cost? Maybe Not (Haaretz)

UK Sport has denied seeking to win Olympic medals at any cost following revelations it secretly spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on testing an experimental substance on 91 elite athletes before London 2012. (The Guardian)

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