What Does Bursting At The Seams Mean?

Bursting at the Seams Meaning

Definition: Extremely full; full to the breaking point.

People also often use this expression in the progressive form, bursting at the seams, and the simple past form, burst at the seams.

Origin of Bursting at the Seams

This expression started to become popular in the 1800s. It is related to the seams in fabric.

A seam is where two pieces of fabric are sewn together. If a bag is very full, the seams will begin to bulge apart from the pressure. Likewise, if clothes are too small, they will start to rip at the seams. This is called bursting at the seams because bursting is another way to say breaking.

Nowadays, this expression is still used for bags that are too full or clothes that are too small. However, it can also be used for anything that is very full. This includes things that are abstract. For example, a person bursting at the seams with happiness is full of happiness.

Examples of Bursting at the Seams

what is burstingIn this conversation, two high school students talk about the big, delicious meal they just ate.

Lisa: This was the best meal ever! I can’t believe how much I ate!

Jackie: I know. I feel sick from overeating, but it was worth it.

Lisa: Hey! There’s a little bit more in the kitchen. Would you like another plateful?

Jackie: No, I can’t. I’m already bursting at the seams.

Lisa: Yeah, me too. We’ll save it for leftovers.

define bursting at the seamsIn the below dialogue, two friends discuss a party they are attending.

Seth: Wow. Look how crowded it is here.

Jimmy: I didn’t realize how many people would be here.

Seth: I guess we should go inside, but I don’t even know if we’ll be able to fit.

Jimmy: Yeah, this house is really bursting at the seams.

This example uses the expression in a more abstract way. This person is overflowing with emotion.

Chelsea: Yay! We’re finally leaving for our vacation in Costa Rica!

Oscar: I’m so excited that I’m bursting at the seams!

More Examples

In this news excerpt, a fashion show is full of creative people.

  • Jeremy Scott’s show nearly burst at the seams with members of the trendy creative set—most notably Kanye West. –Wall Street Journal

The second news excerpt is about a neighborhood that is very crowded and popular.

  • So many Korean businesses have crowded onto the street in recent years that the block has begun to burst at the seams, spilling restaurants and Seoul-based patisseries onto nearby side streets and Fifth Avenue, and pushing karaoke bars, night clubs and spas upward onto higher floors in these mostly class B buildings.  –New York Times


The phrase burst at the seams means almost overflowing or to be overfilled.