British Culture & Expressions

What’s the etymology of the phrase “once and for all”? 

The Oxford English Dictionary says it comes from the similar phrase "once for all (also once for altogether, once for always, once forever): once as a final act; conclusively, so as to end uncertainty."

What is an idiomatic expression?

Idiomatic expressions are a type of informal English that have a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression.


  1. finally; decisively; conclusively
  2. for the last time
  3. completelyfor good

Let’s look at some real examples!

  • He should act once and for all. 
  • This is not an issue that was settled once and for all.
  • It would all be a huge waste of time and money and would prove once and for all that Britain was no longer top dog.

Nearby words:

  • once again: It happens again.
  • once and again: occasionally.
  • once bitten, twice shy: when you want to indicate that someone will not do something a second time because they had a bad experience the first time they did it.
  • once in a blue moon: very rarely; almost never
  • once in a while: it happens sometimes, but not very often. Occasionally; now and then.

Some examples here:

  • Now the two women are going into battle once again.
  • I forgot to book an appointment once again. 
  • They meet for lunch once and again. 
  • Sales like this only happen once in a blue moon.

Now, it comes the hardest: Get ready and start incorporating this new expression in your day-to-day communications. Fingers crossed and good luck!

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