Last Resort – Origin & Meaning

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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.

So, what’s the meaning of “last resort,” anyway? You’ve definitely heard this phrase before and likely even used it yourself because it’s just so common. But have you ever wondered where the phrase “last resort” comes from? I’ll explore the meaning and the origins of the idiomatic phrase while clarifying some common grammatical confusion.

Last Resort Meaning

Last Resort Origin Meaning

When we say “last resort,” we’re basically saying we’re down to the final option or solution to a problem that’s left to choose from. It’s when we have exhausted all other possible options and have no choice but to take the last step.

If you had an important function to go to and weren’t sure if you could rely on the babysitter you lined up, you could say that asking your parents to babysit is a last resort because you don’t want to bother them.

Origin of the Phrase Last Resort

The phrase”last resort” might sound like a modern saying, but it derives from the 1600s in an old French term en dernier resort, which translates to ultimately last resort and originally referred to a court from which there could be no appeal—the decision was final.

My Last Resort vs. As a Last Resort

There’s a slight difference between the idioms “my last resort” and “as a last resort.” Saying “my last resort” means you’re down to the last option for something in general. Like, “this is my last resort” could be a blanket term to cover just about anything you want.

But saying you’ll do something as a last resort is usually used in a specific context, like, “As a last resort, I’ll just use blue fabric instead of green.”

Synonyms for Last Resort

You can always spice up your writing and vocabulary with synonyms that still convey the same message you’re trying to create. Here are a few you can use in place of “last resort.”

  • Final option
  • Ultimatum
  • Hail Mary
  • No other choice
  • Desperate measure
  • Last-ditch effort

Last Resort Examples in a Sentence

Last Resort Origin Meaning 1
  • I really don’t want to take out another loan, but it’s my last resort to pay for my increasing medical bills.
  • As a last resort, we might have to cancel the event if we can’t find a suitable venue to hold all the people.
  • I hate to do this, but calling my ex is my last resort to finding a roommate because at least I know he makes good money.
  • My son’s soccer team was losing by ten points with only two minutes left, so they had to do some trick shots as a last resort to win.
  • My mother tried every possible remedy for her headache, but taking prescription painkillers was her last-ditch effort to relieve the pain.
  • I hate reading eBooks because the light hurts my eyes, but I forgot my paperback while on vacation, so I had to read on my phone as a last resort.

Just Remember

And that wraps up yet another great grammar guide on idiomatic phrases. Remember, “last resort” can be used to show the emphasis that this is truly the only option left to go with. Have a look at our other guides on breaking down idioms just like this one!