Close but no cigar

Close but no cigar means to fall short of a goal and have nothing to show for the effort. Close but no cigar is a truly American idiom dating from the beginning of the twentieth century or earlier. At that time, arcade games at fairs and on boardwalks often gave a cigar as a prize for winning games of chance and skill. If a player missed the mark, the barker would often howl, “Close, but no cigar.” This goading was designed to entice the player to try again, and put another nickle or dime in the game-owner’s pocket. The first written instance of this idiom is found in the published script of the 1935 play, Annie Oakley.


Close but no cigar seems to be the way the Western New Mexico University men’s basketball season has gone. (The Silver City Sun-News)

Of their forward play, Dyche said: “We were close but no cigar really with our fluid play.” (The Lancashire Telegraph)

There’d be sightings over the years, with searchers thinking they’d found it, only to discover they’d been fooled by Tipping Rock look-alikes that were close, but no cigar. (The Valley News)

After nearly four decades of waiting, which including a slew of “close, but no cigar”-type endings, American Pharoah made it into the record books. (The Arizona Daily Star)

Is this team headed to the playoffs — or another season of being close, but no cigar unless you win the draft lottery? (The St. George Daily Spectrum)

Pretty close, but no cigar, as they say. (The Nottingham Post)

Celebrating 20 years since the charismatic American horse won the inaugural Dubai World Cup, it was close but no Cigar for the seven-strong Hong Kong team at Meydan on Saturday night. (The South China Morning Post)

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