End of the line

End of the line is an idiom that is decades old. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom end of the line, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

End of the line is an idiom that means there’s no where to go, that something has ended, that there is no recourse, that there is no way to continue. For instance, if one has liquidated all his holdings and spent all that money, he has come to the end of the line concerning his finances. The expression end of the line is derived from the very literal meaning of the end of a railway line or other transportation system. Though the phrase end of the line, used in a literal sense, was in use since the 1800s, the idiomatic meaning of end of the line came into use in the mid-twentieth century.


It’s the end of the line for Bombardier Inc.’s five-decade run as a trainmaker. (The Montreal Gazette)

It’s the End of the Line for Jaguar Land Rover’s Defender (Industry Week)

It’s the end of the line for ‘dinosaur’ phone system at El Segundo City Hall. (The Los Angeles Times)

It’s the end of the line for Subway promotion (The Houston Chronicle)

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