What Does At All Costs Mean?  

At All Costs Meaning

Definition: Regardless of the price or efforts.

Origin of At All Costs

This idiom is easiest to understand through the synonymous expression is at any cost. This literally means that any cost, or price, would be acceptable in order to achieve some specific goal.

Both at any cost and at all costs started rising in popularity in the first half of the 1800s. At any cost was more popular until around the year 1910, at which point at all costs surpassed it in usage.

People often use one of these two expressions when they want to emphasize that no sacrifice is too great to get what they want.

Examples of At All Costs

at all cost or at all costsIn this example, two friends are discussing a big family problem that one of them is dealing with.

Cassie: I think my brother made a huge mistake.

Rebecca: What do you mean?

Cassie: I’m sure he’s innocent, but the police are trying to find and arrest him in connection with a murder.

Rebecca: Oh my goodness! That’s shocking!

Cassie: I know it’s shocking, but I also know that he is innocent.

Rebecca: Well, he shouldn’t run from the police. If he’s innocent, they’ll just ask him some questions and eventually release him.

Cassie: He can’t go to jail because of a psychiatric condition that he has. The jail won’t be equipped to take care of him. We have to hide him from the police.

Rebecca: We can’t do that! It’s illegal!

Cassie: He’s already here. We must protect him at all costs! He could die if they take him into custody.

avoid at all costsIn the dialogue below, two men are discussing a soccer game that they will compete in tomorrow.

Antonio: Listen, we absolutely have to win tomorrow’s game. If we lose, we will be out of the tournament.

Igor: I know! We’ll try our best.

Antonio: And if our best isn’t enough, we still have to win at all costs!

Igor: I hope you aren’t suggesting that we bribe the referee. I’m not going to cheat!

More Examples

This excerpt is a quote from a football player who wants to keep playing despite injuries.

  • “I do have that desire to want to be out there at all costs every week,” Rivers said. “Thankfully, I haven’t had anything other than the knee deal in that ’07 season that has been super, super jeopardizing. Maybe a few other little things that were just uncomfortable, but I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to be out there.” –USA Today

This excerpt is about political change in Spain.

  • Along with about a dozen others sipping cups of coffee and speaking in hushed tones, Marta and Laura spent the brisk fall night at the center to prevent police from sealing it off before it could be used as a polling place for last Sunday’s referendum on Catalan independence, which Madrid declared illegal and threatened to stop at all costs. –USA Today


The phrase at all costs is an expression that means do whatever is necessary no matter what.