You can’t fight city hall

Photo of author


You can’t fight city hall is an American idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common saying you can’t fight city hall, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

You can’t fight city hall means that an individual cannot combat bureaucracy or the government; an individual cannot buck a political, governmental, or bureaucratic system and its rules. The expression you can’t fight city hall uses the term city hall to mean a bureaucratic institution; it may refer to city government, a national government, or a regulatory agency. The phrase you can’t fight city hall became popular in the twentieth century, but it was in use in the latter-1800s and may be related to the New York politics of the time. Tammany Hall was a political organization in New York that was founded in the 1700s. By the mid-to-late 1800s, Tammany Hall controlled the Democratic party, and therefore, all of politics in the region. Tammany Hall was extremely powerful, so it that case, it was indeed impossible to fight city hall.


When it comes to a public health crisis of this magnitude, you can’t fight city hall — in this case the state’s chief executive officer. (Lowell Sun)

They say you can’t fight city hall, but, in High Point at least, you can make suggestions. (Rhino Times)

At first blush, this sounded like a classic case of “you can’t fight city hall” but, after council asked questions, it sounded more like something fell down in the process of getting parts of long-time Gulfportian Pat Dunham’s house rebuilt. (Gulfport Gabber)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: