Bottom line

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The phrase the bottom line, like many idioms, has its roots in a literal meaning. We will explore the definition of the term the bottom line and its origins, as well as look at some examples of use in sentences.

The bottom line describes the ultimate outcome of a situation or the most important or fundamental facet of that situation. When someone asks for the bottom line, he wants to cut out all superfluous details and focus on the primary problem or objective. The bottom line is an American phrase originally coined in the mid-1960s by corporate America to describe the physical bottom line of a profit and loss statement where the final numerical figure is placed, showing whether a company made a profit or took a loss. By the 1980s, the term the bottom line took on a figurative sense to mean the most important facet of a situation or the outcome of a situation. The bottom line is a noun, though increasingly it is being used as a verb as in bottom line me, a request to leave out the details of an explanation and skip to the important part. Related words are bottom lines, bottom lined, bottom lining. When used as an adjective before a noun, the term is hyphenated as in bottom-line.


The bottom line is, as it’s been written and spoken in various ways throughout the course of this great country’s history, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal)

“Fashion doesn’t just make us look good, it helps our nation’s bottom line,” said Maloney. (The Queens Gazette)

The Pentagon’s bottom line is national defense, not local and regional economies. (The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer)

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