Hit a brick wall vs hit the wall

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Hit a brick wall and hit the wall are two idioms that may be confused, as they have very different definitions. We will look at the meanings of the phrases hit a brick wall and hit the wall, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To hit a brick wall means to encounter an obstacle or some type of hindrance that stops your progress or altogether ends your endeavor. A brick wall, in this instance, is something that is impossible to surmount. The term brick wall came into use in the 1880s to mean an insurmountable obstacle. Related phrases are hits a brick wall, hitting a brick wall. The idiom is also expressed as come up against a brick wall or run into a brick wall.

Hit the wall is a term that athletes use to mean the point in an athlete’s performance when he is fully depleted as does not feel he can continue. When a runner or other athlete hits the wall, he feels extremely tired, may be in pain, and feels psychologically defeated. This is due to a depletion of glycogen stores in the muscles and the liver. Some athletes are so fatigued they must stop their activities, but some may push themselves when they hit the wall until they gain a second wind, and find the strength to finish. The term hit the wall gained popularity in the 1960-1970s when jogging became an American pastime, and the phenomenon became more commonly known. Related phrases are hits the wall, hitting the wall.


The 5-Star emerged as the largest single party in the March election, but all attempts to put together a coalition with its rivals have hit a brick wall, prompting President Sergio Mattarella to urge the creation of a broad unity government. (Reuters)

As matters stand, Msimanga and Makhura have hit a brick wall – they are stranded in the middle of a community that must be moved from a dolomitic area, another desperate for houses that will help itself to any that’s available, as well as the law that requires them to provide alternative accommodation before evicting people. (The Independent)

“Around Mile 25 I got tired and hit the wall.” (The Lincoln Journal Star)

When she hits “The Wall,” she keeps her family in mind, and often dedicates her races to someone she has lost, Free said. (The Monroe Monitor)