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That’s the last straw

“That’s the last straw” is a common English idiom. It’s used to signal when someone is fed up with a situation. 

It’s easy to use in everyday conversations but is most commonly applied when someone is frustrated and wants everyone to know they aren’t going to stand for a particular situation much longer. One should realize before using the phrase that it’s unlikely to be appropriate in professional situations unless the speaker is referring to someone outside the room. For example, saying they are tired of a competitor’s actions, etc. 

That's the last straw meaning

“That’s the last straw” Meaning

“That’s the last straw” is a common idiom that’s used when someone wants to express how frustrated they are.

When it’s used, someone is signaling to those around them that they are no longer going to stand for something to happen. For example, a child is throwing a fit and breaks a toy. Their mother might say, “Okay, that’s the last straw; you’re going to time out.” The “straw” part of the phrase is the final piece of the puzzle, the one thing that sent the speaker over the edge. They were okay tolerating a difficult situation for a time, but after the last “straw” falls into place, they lose their patience. 


The phrase “that’s the last straw” dates back to an older English proverb. It reads: 

It’s the last straw that breaks the cable’s back.

It’s believed to have originated around 1755, but there are a variety of different forms seen between then and 1836. Today, “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” is another variation of the idiom that’s sometimes used. 

When to Use “That’s the last straw” 

It’s possible to use “that’s the last straw” in many different situations. It is easiest to use among friends, family members, and colleagues. For example, one friend is complaining about her life every time she’s around. Another friend might finally reach their tipping point and say, “Okay, that’s the last straw,” when the friend starts to complain one more time. After saying this, it’s likely that the complaining friend is going to be thrown off and perhaps angered. 

Example Sentences 

  • Okay, that it, that’s the last straw. I can’t deal with you anymore.
  • He told me that was the last straw and broke up with me. 
  • I have to be careful with her, I feel like we’re getting close to the last straw. 
  • I don’t want to get upset but really, that was the last straw. You’re complaining too much. 
  • I couldn’t deal with his complaints anymore and screamed at him, “that’s the last straw!” 

Why Do Writers Use “That’s the last straw?” 

Writers use “that’s the last straw” in the same way that people use it in everyday conversation.

It could be used in a dialogue between two characters or within a narrator’s description of an event or broader scene. For example, a narrator might comment, in a way only the reader can hear, that something that happened in “the last straw.” Then, the reader knows how on edge the narrator/main character is but the other characters in the story don’t. 

The phrase is incredibly common in everyday conversations. This means that when it’s included in writing, it’s going to be unlikely that someone is going to read it and not understand what it means, despite its status as an idiom. 

A writer might choose to use it in a dialogue between two characters as well. For example, one character is acting out, throwing a tantrum, or causing a big scene. Another comes into the picture and shouts “that’s the last straw,” suggesting that whatever the other character just did has pushed them over the edge. It’s an easy way to let readers know how frustrated someone is. 

It should be noted that this idiom, as well as other idioms and proverbs, are often regarded as cliché. This means that most authors are probably going to stay away from using them in their dialogue. 


Why do people use “that’s the last straw?”

People use “that’s the last straw” when they want to signal that they are tired of something happening. They’re no longer going to put up with a series of events that are occurring around them. It’s usually said out of frustration.

Where did “that’s the last straw” come from? 

The phrase “that’s the last straw” originated sometime in the mid-1700s, but it’s unclear who was first to use it or the first time it appeared in print. This is usually the case with idioms.

Is “that’s the last straw” an idiom? 

Yes. In this form, the phrase is an idiom. It is defined by the fact that its individual words do not convey the meaning the phrase has as a whole. Readers have to have experience with the idiom in order to know what it means. This usually requires hearing it in context

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