Dead end

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The expression dead end has been in use since the 1880s, though the figurative meaning came into use around 1920. We will examine the definition of the term dead end, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Dead end describes a situation from which there is no escape, a path that ends nowhere, a course of action that does not end in a successful resolution. The term dead end is used in the United States to mean a street that is not a throughway or does not have an outlet. Dead end may be used as a noun or a verb, related terms are dead ends, dead ended, dead ending. The expression dead end first appeared in the 1880s to describe a closed water pipe. By the 1920s the term came to be used as an idiom to mean a situation from which there is no escape. An idiom is a figure of speech that is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. When used as an adjective before a verb, the term is hyphenated as in dead-end.


Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley warned Thursday that any move to erect new trade barriers in a bid to spur domestic growth is a “dead end” for those countries that try them. (The Wall Street Journal)

ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi said he was disappointed in a meeting with the Opposition on the anti-gang legislation and he believes their new calls for a Joint Select Committee (JSC) and national consultation to be a “dead end.” (The Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)

In his proposal, the nationalist Degtyarev suggests that Moscow should give the name of “North American Dead End” to the currently unnamed blind alley that runs alongside the US embassy compound. (Deutsche Welle)

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