Pull the plug

Pull the plug is an idiom that has been in use since the early twentieth century, though its exact origin is unknown. We will examine the meaning of the idiom pull the plug, where this phrase may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To pull the plug means to end something, to bring something to an abrupt close, to withdraw one’s support for something. The phrase pull the plug may also be used to mean to withdraw life support in a medical situation. The expression to pull the plug came into popular use sometime in the 1920s, but its origin is uncertain. Some believe that it refers to pulling a stopper or plug out of a sink or other plumbing fixture in order to allow the water to drain down a waste pipe. Others believe that pull the plug refers to pulling an electrical plug out of a socket, cutting the electricity supply. This seems like a more plausible origin, as the idiom came into use as more and more homes were wired with electricity. Related phrases are pulls the plug, pulled the plug, pulling the plug.

Examples

It’s unlikely the GAA will pull the plug before the third year of the experiment is played, albeit with some tweaking to the Croke Park round and maybe the sequencing of matches. (The Irish Times)

Mainboard-listed telco StarHub, which said in November 2018 that it would pull the plug on its cable products and services, recently extended the deadline from June 30 to Sept 30. (The Business Times)

James Jeffrey, the US special representative for Syria, said countries should “pull the plug on Astana” if no progress is made by mid-December, when the UN Security Council is to receive a final report from UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who is leading efforts to form a constitutional committee. (The Arab Weekly)