English idiom: The final / last straw

English idiom: The final / last straw

The idiom that is going to be discussed here in this post is: The last straw, or the final straw so notice the following example to start understanding the meaning of this popular idiom:

Juliet: Thank God, after a long time we could pass our last exam today.
Katy: You are right and I’m so tired that I couldn’t sleep last night.
Juliet: It was the last straw and we can sleep well from tonight.
Katy: I don’t think so and the new semester is going to start soon.

As you can see from the above example, the last exam which was the hardest exam in their examinations was over and they were really happy that they could pass it and finish their examinations after this one. Juliet used the phrase ‘the last straw’ which means it was the hardest exam between other exams they tried hard to pass it. 

Idiom #253

 The last/final straw


  • Insignificant matter that upsets a delicate balance
  • The final problem in a series of problems and challenges
  • To be the last in a sequence of unpleasant things and happenings
  • To be the last tolerable thing after which something can’t be accepted
  • A small issue following a series of difficult matters that causes a person to lose his cool
English idiom: The final / last straw
English idiom: the final/last straw

To know more about this idiom let’s check the definition of this idiom in some great dictionaries:

The last straw
The final straw
The straw that breaks the camel’s back

The last in a series of bad events, etc. that makes it impossible for you to accept a situation any longer

The last in a series of unpleasant events that finally make you feel that you cannot continue to accept a bad situation

The last of a succession of irritations, incidents, remarks, etc., that leads to a loss of patience, a disaster, etc.

The last of a series of events that causes an angry or violent reaction

Function: noun
Etymology: from the fable of the last straw that broke the camel’s back when added to its burden
Date: 1848
The last of a series (as of events or indignities) that brings one beyond the point of endurance

The idiom ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’, alluding to the proverb “it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back”, describes the seemingly minor or routine action that causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions.

Related words and phrases:
affront, final stroke, indignity, last lick, limit, match in the powder barrel, overload, provocation, straw that broke the camel’s back

You know the word ‘Straw’ in this phrase means :

dry threshed grain stalks (used for bedding, animal fodder, basket weaving, etc.)
a single stalk of grain

While it has other meanings as:

hollow slender tube used to suck up liquids; something of little importance; pale yellow color that looks like the color of straw

The idiom ‘the final/last straw’ originated from the proverb ‘It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back’. It has been used since the mid-1700s. People used to get help from animals like camels for transporting their goods before the modern forms of transportation. Actually, there is a story behind this idiom.

There was a rich man who used camels to transport his straw. He would load as much straw as he could on them in order to get the most out of the animals. One day he proceeded to load one last piece of straw onto the camel’s back and the camel collapsed. His back had broken and the man was unable to move any straw. This may just be a story, but it clearly proves the origin of this particular phrase.

This idiom has had many variations over the time it was used. There is an earlier phrase dating back to the 1800s that states ‘The last feather breaks the horse’s back’. The earliest example of this idiom has been found in ‘The Edinburgh Advertiser’ from May 1816 which says: ‘yet straw upon straw was laid till the last straw broke the camel’s back’. Even though the form and words of this phrase have changed over time, the meaning has not changed and it has remained the same.

English idiom: the final straw
English idiom: the final straw

Let’s take a look at some examples of this idiom to understand it better:

• His father’s death was the last straw after his bankruptcy.
• He’s been late before, but this one is going to be the final straw.
• We never wait until the last straw before we start to take any action.
Losing his job was bad enough for him, but being evicted was the final straw.
• She’s always been rude to me, but it was the last straw when she started insulting my mother.
• I am not going to wait for the last straw like what you do. I need to do something to solve the problem.
• She was physically abused by her manager and it was the last straw in her lifetime after she lost his previous job.

Click here to find more idioms and proverbs

Click here to see the list of Vocabulary posts

About Ahmad Osmani

Ahmad Osmani
I am Ahmad Osmani, an English teacher, and translator. I have more than 15 years of experience. I have been the administrator and writer of the website since its creation. I have studied Translation Studies and English Language. I love learning and teaching different languages. My main profession is writing and translating and sometime I teach English in my free time.

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