End All Be All—The Pursuit of Ultimate Goals

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Alison Page

Alison has worked full-time in the writing industry for over ten years, using her knowledge and life experience to create online content, fiction and non-fiction. Alison has published two novels and has ghost-written several non-fiction equestrian books for a client. Alison has been a full-time professional content writer for almost ten years and loves her work as a wordsmith.

End all be all means something that is considered the most important or ultimate thing in a particular situation. It’s like saying it’s the final word or the most crucial aspect.

Idioms such as end all be all are expressions with figurative meanings. These intriguing, quirky phrases can make your speech more interesting and engaging to your audience, demonstrating your advanced command of the English language.

I put together this article to examine the origins and meaning of end all be all, explain how to use it in the right context, and provide examples of its use. Once you’ve read the article, you’ll know how to use this idiom in your conversations, adding color, flavor, and humor to your speech.

When you finish reading, why not take my short quiz to test your knowledge of the idiom? Shall we get started?

End All Be All—The Pursuit of Ultimate Goals 2

What Does the Idiom End All Be All Mean?

The idiom be all and end all describes the thing, idea, person, or activity that is the most essential element in a person’s life; no substitutes or alternatives can take its place.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, be-all and end-all means “the most important thing.” The Collins Dictionary states the phrase means “the central and all-important part.” Similarly, Merriam-Webster defines the idiom as “prime cause: essential element.”

Now, you might think that understanding the meaning of idioms and their correct usage is not the end all be all of speaking English. I beg to differ! Idioms add flair, color, and creativity to your conversation and writing, helping you stand out from the crowd among your peers.

Variations of the Idiom

Variations are essentially different versions or forms of the same idiom. They mean the same but often use different words or structures. Using variations of the idiom can help to prevent repetition and keep your prose from becoming stale and clichéd. So here are variations of the idiom that you can use:

  • Be-all and end-all
  • End-all and be-all
  • End all and be all
  • Be all and end all
  • End-all, be-all
  • End all, be all
  • End-all-be-all

How Is the Idiom End All Be All Commonly Used in Context?

The idiomatic phrase end all be all is typically used to describe something or someone regarded as most important, supreme, or ultimate. It’s a highly versatile phrase that can be applied in various casual and formal contexts.

In the subsequent sections, we will delve into the practical usage of this idiom, exploring its different applications, giving tips for using it effectively, and showing where to spot the phrase in action.

What Are the Different Ways to Use the Idiom End All Be All?

The idiom end all be all can be used in many different contexts, including the following:

  • Financial success: “For many people, money is the end all be all of success. Mind you, I prefer love over money any day.”
  • Sporting prowess: “That guy trains so hard he deserves victory. After all, winning the championship is the end-all and be-all of his sports career.”
  • Romance: “For me, finding true love is the end all be and all of my internet dating efforts.”
  • Academic success: “Jayne’s mother told me her daughter was very proud to get the grades she needed. ‘To some students, getting into a top university is the end all, be all of their academic goals,’” she said, smiling.
  • Fashionistas: For some fashion enthusiasts, owning a designer handbag is the end-all, be-all of their style aspirations.

Note that I employ some variations of the idiom in the example sentences.

What Are Some Tips for Using the Idiom End All Be All Effectively?

When you use the phrase end all be all in conversation or writing, it’s essential to use it appropriately and thoughtfully. Here are some top tips on how to use the idiom to the best effect:

  • Use it sparingly: It’s essential to use it sparingly and only when it truly applies to your situation. Using the expression too often only dilutes its effect and weakens your prose.
  • Clarity is essential: Be sure that the message you’re trying to convey is clear and concise. If there’s a chance your audience won’t understand what you mean, be ready and willing to explain.
  • Provide evidence: When using the phrase in written work, it’s important to provide evidence or support for your claim to help strengthen your argument and give your statement more credence.
  • Be audience-aware: Consider your audience and know whether the use of the phrase is appropriate for them. If you’re not sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
  • Use variations: Overuse of any idiom or expression makes your speech sound tired and stale. Use alternatives to the phrase to keep your prose fresh and engaging.

Where Can You Find Examples of the Idiom End All Be All?

Although this idiom is not particularly popular these days, you can still come across it in some media, including public speeches, online, books, TV, and movies.

Here are two examples of the phrase’s use in popular media:

This quality and depth of community takes years to build up, defines societal resilience and health, and is supposedly the be-all and end-all of development policy and planning. (The Boulder Daily Camera)

I asked him Monday if he understands there is a large portion of the basketball public that sees scoring as the be-all and end-all in this sport. (The Charlotte Observer)

What Is the Origin of the Idiom End All Be All?

End All Be All Ngram 1
End all be all usage trend.

William Shakespeare coined the expression be-all and end-all. The phrase turns up in the play Macbeth, first produced in 1605: 

“If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly. If th’ assassination / Could trammel up the consequence, and catch / With his surcease, success: that but this blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all.”

How Did the Idiom Evolve Over Time?

The idiom be-all and end-all is slightly dated but is still occasionally seen, especially among older people. 

The expression be-all and end-all is not limited to people. Something essential for an institution, nation, or company may be said to be the be-all and end-all. For instance, blockbuster comic book films have become the be-all and end-all for theater owners. 

Note that the words be-all and end-all are properly rendered with hyphens according to the Oxford English Dictionary, though the phrase is often seen spelled without hyphens.

What Are Some Related Terms to End All Be All?

I find it helpful to know a few related terms, including synonyms and antonyms, when using idioms.

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  • Alpha and Omega
  • Whole enchilada
  • Holy grail
  • Final word
  • Ultimate goal
  • Last straw
  • Final straw
  • Ultimate objective


End All Be All: Test Your Knowledge!

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What Have We Learned about End All Be All?

In this article, we have learned that the expression end all be all refers to someone’s ultimate goal, the idea, thing, person, or activity that is by far the most essential part of their life. This expression is generally used positively and can add an element of humor to a conversation, too.

English language idioms like this one are used to give your speech and writing a splash of color and make what you say more interesting and engaging for your listeners. In addition, understanding how and when to use them demonstrates your superior command of English, which is sure to impress your audience!

In my guide, I explained the idiom’s meaning, origin, and how to use it correctly and in context. I gave you some examples of the expression’s use and offered some alternatives to help keep your speech fresh. Now, you’re fully equipped to confidently use this common yet ancient idiom in your prose.

If you want to discover more quirky idioms to impress your friends, why not take a journey through the hundreds of idiom guides on our site?