What Does No Quarter Mean? – Origin and Definition

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

When it comes to my book projects, my editor has no quarter, and that’s the way I want it. But wait! What the heck does no quarter mean? Well, I can tell you one thing; it has nothing to do with the coin. Let me explain the definition of no quarter and share the interesting origin of the phrase so you can use it properly.

Meaning of No Quarter

What Does No Quarter Mean Origin Definition

You would say the phrase “no quarter” when you want to mean showing no mercy or leniency. It’s usually in the context of a conflict or competition. It’s supposed to convey the idea that one side won’t spare or give any concessions to the other.

When you use it in a conversation, it shows your determination or ruthlessness in working toward whatever goals are at hand.

Give No Quarter or No Quarter Given

Both sayings “give no quarter” and “no quarter given” are just other variations of the same phrase, so they have the same meaning; it’s just in how you use it.

  • I’ll give no quarter in my quest for world domination.
  • There was no quarter given in her pursuit of world domination.

Origin of No Quarter Saying

The saying derives from a time long ago, during the 1600s, when “quarter” meant given exemption from the death penalty of hanging or other forms. So, saying “given no quarter” meant they were not given an exemption and were put to death.

It was also used in a slightly different context during the war when the victor or winning side would take prisoners and give them somewhere to stay, aka quarters or shelter.

That ties into how the word “quarter” became the term for shelter in the first place. Back in the day, cities or large villages were divided into districts or quarters. We still have things like the Latin quarter, Chinese quarter and French quarter today in certain places. Somewhere along the way, it applied to houses and how they were divided into main parts like the living room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Today, the expression still stands but is used in an idiomatic way for endless reasons of showing no mercy.

Other Ways to Say No Quarter

  • No mercy
  • Ruthless
  • Play hardball
  • Unrelenting
  • Unyielding
  • Uncompromising

No Quarter Examples in a Sentence

What Does No Quarter Mean Origin Definition 1
  • My son’s soccer team showed no quarter in the championship game, crushing their opponents mercilessly until they threw in the towel.
  • He gave no quarter in the negotiations on the land deal, refusing to budge on his demands for the buyers.
  • Our new manager showed no quarter when it came to enforcing the company’s crazy strict policies.
  • No quarter given when I was competing in the contest for best author, and it paid off because I won.
  • I love the pirate history of Newfoundland and how ruthless they were, giving no quarter to their enemies and even friends.
  • The fact that he gives no quarter about what others think of the project is a giant red flag.
  • A true psychopath gives no quarter when dealing out horrible acts to others.
  • Growing up, my mother gave me no quarter when I did something wrong. I was always the grounded one of my group of friends.

Give No Quarter

It’s really as simple as that. “No quarter” means “no mercy.” So if you’re writing about pirates or a story that takes place hundreds of years ago, try using the phrase to give more character to the plot. Be sure to have a look at my other guides on popular idioms to spruce up your vocabulary!