Cut one’s losses

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Cut one’s losses is an idiom that has been in use for over 200 years. We will examine the meaning of the idiom cut one’s losses, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To cut one’s losses means to cease participating in something that is failing or causing harm to oneself. To cut one’s losses means to stop participating in a situation that is doomed to failure, incurring losses accrued up to that time but not incurring further losses. The expression cut one’s losses is attributed to David Ricardo, an economist on the London Stock Exchange at the turn of the nineteenth century. He admonished investors to “cut short your losses” and “let your profits run on.” Related phrases are cuts one’s losses, cutting one’s losses. Though the expression to cut one’s losses originally referred to business investments, the phrase is now also often used to mean to cut one’s emotional losses.


“When I saw that the market has changed, I cut my losses.” (The Mail and Guardian)

After looking into the situation, albeit a little too late, I decided to cut my losses and not re-enroll. (The Daily Titan)

The optimists will say that there is always sunshine after the rain (as our Prime Minister said in his recent speech) while the more practical realists will know when to cut their losses. (The Star)