Bought the farm and gone for a Burton

Bought the farm is an American idiom which originated during World War II, gone for a Burton is the British equivalent. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the terms bought the farm and gone for a Burton, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Bought the farm is a term used to mean someone has died. This euphemism for dying became popular among American servicemen during World War II, especially combat pilots.  The idiom bought the farm may stem from the fact that many servicemen dreamed of the day they would return to civilian life and buy a small farm to work and live on. Another way to interpret this phrase is the idea that when a serviceman died in combat, the family received a small payout for his death. This payout might be enough to pay the mortgage on the family farm.

Gone for a Burton is the British equivalent of the idiom bought the farm, it also originated among servicemen during World War II. It is thought that the Burton referred to is a brand of beer, and so is a euphemism for someone who is gone. Obviously, it us much more pleasant to imagine a missing comrade is at the bar drinking a pint rather than dead. Considering the fact that the idiom gone for a Burton was most often applied to a combat pilot who may have died in the ocean, or in the “drink”, this origin story is most plausible. Today, the phrase may also mean something that is ruined or broken. Note that the word Burton in gone for a Burton is capitalized, as it is a proper noun.


We’re halfway through the first part of Season 7 of The Walking Dead, and there have been no major deaths since Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) bought the farm in the premiere. (TV Guide Magazine)

My plan to trickle down to the autobahn, touch 176mph and head home, has gone for a burton. (Car Magazine)

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