Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat Meaning
Definition: Hard work and suffering.
This phrase refers to any type of work that is strenuous and time-consuming. “I put my blood, toil, tears and sweat into that project,” might be said, meaning the speaker put everything he had into completing the work.
It is originally a war phrase that spoke of the painful and difficult job of being a soldier.
Origin of Blood Toil Tears and Sweat
This phrase was made famous as part of Winston Churchill’s first speech to the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940, during the first full year of World War II.
The phrase in its entirety was,
- We are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history… I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
While effective in gaining the House’s support for the war, Churchill could not claim the phrase as his own. He was most likely paraphrasing a similar quote from Giuseppe Garibaldi, who rallied his troops in Rome in 1849 by saying,
- I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battle, and death.
This quote was most likely influenced by John Donne’s line from 1611,
- …mollifie / It with thy teares, or sweat, or blood.
Examples of Blood Toil Tears and Sweat
The phrase, while not often used in language, has made its way into popular culture nonetheless. The year 1967 saw an American jazz-rock group form with the name Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and, more recently, the Bank of England chose to embellish the new five-pound note with “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” beneath a portrait of Winston Churchill.
- No British premier has stood [as] isolated [as Theresa May] on the global stage since Winston Churchill pledged to oppose Adolf Hitler with nothing more than blood, toil, tears, and sweat. –Daily Mail
- But a lot of people, including me, still put a lot of blood, toil, tears, and sweat into baseball. –North Country Public Radio
The phrase blood, toil, tears, and sweat means that a lot of effort, hard work, determination, and suffering went into getting a job done.