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"be all and end all"

Posted by ESC on June 02, 2003

In Reply to: "Be all and end all" posted by ESC on June 02, 2003

: : Is this an American phrase or does it have origins in Britain? What is its most accepted meaning?

: Britain.

: BE-ALL AND END-ALL - "The dominant factor. In Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' the first act describes a plot by Macbeth and his wife to assassinate King Duncan of Scotland so Macbeth can become king. Soliloquizing on the scheme, Macbeth says: If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly: if the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch, with his surcease, success; that but this blow might be the be-all and end-all here.'" From the "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

The definition needs a little work. I have heard the phrase used to describe someone with an inflated sense of importance. "He thinks he is the be-all end-all. He thinks he's 'all that and a bag of chips.'"