End on a high note and go out on a high note

End on a high note and go out on a high note are two idioms that mean the same thing. 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 idioms end on a high note and go out on a high note, where they came from, and some examples of their idiomatic usage in sentences.

To end on a high note or to go out on a high note means to finish things well, to end something successfully or in a positive manner, to end something with a pleasing climax. For instance, if a student receives a 100 percent grade on his final exam, he may be said to end on a high note or go out on a high note. This may be especially important if the student’s prior performance has been mediocre. The expression end on a high note or go out on a high note came into use in the 1920s-1930s and is related to music. A rousing musical performance often ends with the singer hitting a difficult high note that impresses the audience. Currently, the idiom end on a high note is nearly twice as popular as the idiom go out on a high note. Related phrases are ends on a high note, ended on a high note, ending on a high note, goes out on a high note, went out on a high note, going out on a high note.


With retirement just around the corner, Taylor hoped to see the program she built end on a high note. (The Bakersfield Californian)

“My mother was a singer, and she always brought in entertainment, so I made a playlist for her,” explained Malo, adding that she thought music was one of the best ways to memorialize a warm-hearted and lively woman who always wanted things to end on a high note. (The Providence Journal)

“A Prairie Home Companion,” original flavor, had seemed to go out on a high note. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

With a year left, however, she hopes to go out on a high note at Lourdes. (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

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