What Does One for the Road Mean?

One for the Road Meaning

Definition: One last alcoholic beverage before leaving a bar or party.

A variant of this spelling is one more for the road.

Origin of One for the Road

This expression first appeared in the early 1900s, but the exact origin is unclear.

It is thought to have originated from traveling salesmen, who, after a night of drinking or dealing with customers, sought one last drink before going home or back to their hotels.

The phrase itself is literal. One refers to one more drink (usually alcohol). For the road refers to the journey taken by road to one’s home or hotel from the bar.

To have one drink for the road is to have one last drink before heading home.

Examples of One for the Road

one for the road lyricsThis example shows two coworkers who are at a work party.

Regina: Ginny, I think I might head home soon. I’m tired, and this party is a little boring.

Ginny: Yeah, I’ll probably leave soon as well.

Regina: At least the drinks were good! Did you use both the drink tickets they provided us with?

Ginny: I only used one. Why?

Regina: Do you plan on using it? I know you don’t like to drink much, so I was thinking about asking to use yours. I’d like to get one for the road.

Ginny: Sure, that’s fine. I wasn’t going to use it anyway. I can give you a ride home.

Regina: Thank you!

one more for the road lyrics In this example, two friends are talking about a contest that one of them just won.

Kevin: Let’s have another drink to celebrate my win!

Steve: Are you sure you want to keep drinking? You don’t usually drink that much, but you’ve already had a lot for tonight. I’m worried you’re going to feel sick.

Kevin: Don’t worry. I’m not driving home tonight. I’ll call a cab.

Steve: I know. I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried that you’ll have a bad hangover tomorrow.

Kevin: Yeah, you’re probably right. Let’s just have one more then. One more won’t hurt. Just one for the road, then we’ll go home.

Steve: You go ahead. I’ll just finish the one I already have.

More Examples

This excerpt shows the expression in the title of a book against drunk driving.

  • Barron Lerner, NYU professor and author of “One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900,” said that, at first, police relied on the same sort of roadside sobriety tests used today, things like walking in a straight line or standing on one foot. –New York Daily News

This excerpt uses the expression to describe how drinking and driving is less common nowadays.

He said the drop in alcohol-related crashes is directly attributable to intense societal pressure from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“In the past 40 or 50 years, the message changed from ‘one for the road’ to ‘who is the designated driver?” Hedlund said. “It’s a major social change.” –USA Today

Summary

The phrase one for the road is something people say to suggest having a final drink before leaving for home.