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The meaning and origin of the expression: Enough is enough

Enough is enough

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Enough is enough'?

To get Enough is enough is to come off worst in a bargain or contest.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Enough is enough'?

The expression 'enough is enough' is old enough to have been considered proverbial in the 16th century. John Heywood included the phrase in his collection of Tudor language A Dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the Prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:

Here is enough, I am satisfied (sayde he.)
Sens enough is enough (sayd I) here maie we,
With that one word take end good, as maie be geast.
For folke say, enough is as good as a feast.

Heywood was obliging enough also to include the first known usage of 'enough is as a good as a feast' which, as he implies, is an even older proverb. At that stage 'enough is enough' meant 'enough is good enough, we don't need more' - another way of saying 'enough is as good as a feast' in fact.

Enough is enough'Enough is enough' wasn't commonly used for several centuries until it received a boost in the civil rights and feminist movements in the USA in the 1960s. The meaning is the expression had by then completely changed, 'enough is good - all I need' to 'I had enough of that - no more'.

Since then the use of the expression has grown considerably and now any group who is complaining about anything they want to stop is likely to say, chant or make into a banner 'enough is enough'.

See also: the List of Proverbs.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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