What Does Go For Broke Mean?

Go For Broke Meaning

Definition: To take a big risk, regardless of the possibility of losing everything.

Origin of Go For Broke

Most sources point to gambling as the origin for this idiom. To go broke means to lose all of one’s money. To go for somethingmeans to try something. Therefore, to go for broke means to try to gain money through gambling, while at the same time risking it all.

In World War 2, the 442nd infantry regiment adopted this expression. It was then popularized in a movie made about this group of Japanese-American fighters.

Examples of Go For Broke

go for broke idiomThis example shows two women who use this expression when discussing whether or not one of them should ask for a raise.

Bella: I need some advice.

 Hannah: Sure. What about?

Bella: I’m not sure if I should ask my boss for a raise or not.

Hannah: You should absolutely do it! You deserve it.

Bella: I know. But I’m worried that if I ask for the raise, my boss will think I’m ungrateful and fire me.

Hannah: I don’t think that will happen.

Bella: You don’t know my boss. But maybe you’re right. Maybe I’ll go for broke and ask for the raise!

go for broke definitionThe following example shows how the idiom is used in a conversation about gambling.

Hanh: Are you going to bet or not?

Zhongyi: I don’t really gamble.  

Hanh: Well, if you win, you’d get $500.

Zhongyi: Really? In that case, I’ll go for broke. I’m in.

More Examples

This quote in the sports section of the newspaper shows the idiom being used by an athlete who explains that it is important to take risks if he wants to win.

  • “There’s the race to get into the final, and then at that point, everything you’ve done gets wiped off the board,” he said. “I knew my first objective was to get into the final, and then once you’re in the final, you gotta put all your cards on the table and go for broke.” USA Today

In the second example, the expression describes film companies risking their profits on unusual or non-traditional films.  

  • Dergarabedian anticipates that the movie “will play out well over time with this kind of critical reception and in this environment. August is a great place to go for broke and try a different film for audiences.” –USA Today

Summary

The phrase go for broke is an expression that means making a big effort or taking a big risk in order to reap big benefits even though there is a possibility of taking a big loss.

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