Fall on one’s sword

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Fall on one’s sword is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of the phrase fall on one’s sword, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

To fall on one’s sword means to take responsibility for something that has gone wrong, in particular, to resign from one’s position as a way to acknowledge responsibility for something that has gone wrong. The term took on this meaning sometime in the latter half of the twentieth century. The phrase to fall on one’s sword goes back at least to Ancient Rome, when it had the literal meaning of committing suicide by using one’s own sword. As with many idioms, the phrase to fall on one’s sword started out as a term with a literal meaning. Related terms are fell on one’s sword, fallen on one’s sword, falling on one’s sword.


In a follow-up email, “I fell on my sword, saying, ‘I apologize if I confused you,’” and insisted he was willing to travel. (The Wall Street Journal)

‘I’m a man of morals and beliefs and there are certain aspects that I wasn’t in agreement with and I fell on my sword, if you like.” (The Daily Mail)

But instead, it was Professor Weisbrot who fell on his sword, almost a month after the decision to appoint Ms McGrath was announced. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

After more than 30 years with the Australian Taxation Office — in a career recently described as “illustrious” by its chief — deputy ­commissioner Michael Cranston fell on his sword yesterday and ­resigned. (The Australian)