At the End of the Day – Usage & 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.

Let’s break down a phrase you’ve likely heard on countless occasions but maybe haven’t given much thought to. This phrase is at the end of the day. I know what you’re thinking; it sounds pretty straightforward, Candace. But it’s not just about the actual end of a day; there’s more to it and ways you can use it. So, sit tight as I explain everything you need to know about this misunderstood idiom.

At the End of the Day Meaning

At the End of the Day Usage Meaning

Contrary to its apparent literal meaning, the phrase at the end of the day has little to do with the completion of our planet’s 24-hour cycle. It’s more of an idiomatic expression that basically means ultimately or when all is said and done. In English, we use this term to denote the idea of getting to the heart of a certain matter or the ultimate outcome or conclusion of a given situation.

End of Day or End-of-Day

The term end of day or end-of-day typically relates to the closing of the business day. It’s often used in commercial or professional contexts, and most people use it to refer to things like the end-of-day report or end-of-day stock prices.

Back in my days of working as an Interior Designer, I spent a lot of time in an office. My boss would often pop his head inside and say, “Can you have those color samples on my table by the end of the day, Candace?” I knew he meant before I went home, not actually before the sun went down.

By the End of the Day or At the End of the Day

Both are correct; it just depends on how and where you’re applying them. By the end of the day is a phrase that’s usually a reference to some sort of deadline, as in something that needs to be completed within a specific timeframe. But at the end of the day refers to an ultimate or final outcome, usually regardless of time.

At the End of the Day Origin and Etymology

The End of the Day Ngram
The end of the day usage trend.

The precise origins of the idiom at the end of the day are challenging to track due to its frequent literal use to indicate the close of a day. However, an early instance of its seemingly figurative use in the late 19th century is found in the autobiography of biologist Thomas Henry Huxley: “The last thing that it would be proper for me to do would be to speak of the work of my life, or to say at the end of the day whether I think I have earned my wages or not.” Here, Huxley may be metaphorically referring to the end of his career or life, essentially suggesting “when all is said and done.”

While it’s uncertain when this phrase transitioned to common figurative use, it was widely used by at least the 1950s. Regardless of its origins, “at the end of the day” is now a popular phrase used globally to emphasize the most significant point after considering all factors.

At the End of the Day Idiom Synonyms

  • Ultimately
  • In the final analysis
  • When all is said and done
  • All things considered
  • Before closing
  • In the long run

Using at the End of the Day in a Sentence

At the End of the Day Usage Meaning 1

Let’s put at the end of the day to use in a few sentences so you can see exactly how you can use it.

  • At the end of the day, this is your decision to make, and I’ll respect whatever you decide.
  • She may have her faults, but at the end of the day, she’s a good friend, and I stand by that.
  • At the end of the day, I’ll admit that I’d rather be an indie author than traditionally published because I enjoy having total creative control.
  • Can you please get me those reports before the end of the day?
  • I know my husband tends to ramble, but at the end of the day, his points are valid.
  • They bicker constantly, but at the end of the day, I know they really care about each other.

At the End of the Article

Now you know that while it can be used literally to signify the end of the day’s cycle, this phrase is more commonly utilized as an idiom to show either the end of a shift or the idea of ultimately being something.

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