The history behind the idiom

The be all and end all.

'The be all and end all' was coined by William Shakespeare in Macbeth, 1605. Macbeth owns this line when he is contemplating assassinating King Duncan of Scotland and taking the throne for himself.

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

Prime cause: The essential element

The phrase end all be all means the ultimate goal or the most imperative part of something. If something is ‘the be all and end all’ it is the very best or most important; something so good that it will end the search for something better. It has come to my attention that many people omit the “and” and reverse the order, saying “end all, be all”.

Recent Online Examples of be-all and end-all

Other English expressions from Shakespeare

  • Come full circle:  If something or someone has ‘come full circle’, they are now at the same as they were at the beginning.
  • Elbow Room: There is enough space to move about.
  • Fair Play: There is enough space to move about.
  • Bated Breath: Whilst holding one’s breath.
  • Forgone Conclusion: A conclusion already reached; an inevitable result.
  • Forever and a day: For a very long time.
  • The game is up: Something that you say to tell someone that their secret plans or tricks have been discovered and they cannot continue.
  • In my heart of heart: If you know something in your heart of hearts, you are certain of it although you might now want to admit it.
  • Heart’s Content: If you do something enjoyable to your heart’s content, you do it as much as you want to.
  • I have not slept one wink: To not have slept at all.
  • Send him packing: To send someone away; to dismiss someone, possibly rudely.
  • A sorry sight: A sight that one regrets seeing; someone or something that is unpleasant to look at.

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