What Does the Last Straw Mean?

Last Straw Meaning

Definition: The final problem or negative event in a string of bad events that makes a person decide they can’t take any more.

A variation of this phrase is the final straw.

Origin of the Last Straw

This expression comes from the longer expression the straw that broke the camel’s back. The idea behind that expression is that a camel can hold straw on its back. With a single piece of straw, it is so light that the camel can likely not feel it at all. With the second, third, fourth, and so on, the camel cannot feel it.

However, if you keep adding straws, it will become heavier and heavier. Although no individual straw is heavy, together they can become very heavy. And eventually, adding even a single more straw can break the camel’s back.

This idiom, or a similar one, first appeared in the 1600s. An earlier version of this phrase was the last feather that broke the horse’s back. This version can be found in Archbishop John Bramhall’s Works from 1677 and again in Fuller’s Gnomologia from 1732.

Over time, shortened versions appeared, and, at some point, it changed from feather to straw and a horse to a camel.

Examples of the Last Straw

the last straw idiom meaning The first dialogue shows a brother and sister who are trying to cook a meal for their friends.

Luke: You’re cracking the eggs wrong!

Ella: Okay. That’s it. That is the last straw. I can’t take any more of your complaining about every little thing!

Luke: What are you talking about? I haven’t been complaining!

Ella: First you told me I was measuring the flour wrong, then that I used the wrong kind of sugar, and then that I couldn’t microwave the butter. After that you told me that…

Luke: Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry!

Ella: I could take one or two complaints but not constant whining!

 this is the last straw The second example shows two friends discussing their favorite show.

Ray: I feel depressed, but I had to stop watching our favorite show.

Ricardo: You can’t be serious!

Ray: I had to. They had killed off all my favorite characters. I could handle losing three, or four, or even seven of my favorites. But when they killed Ty it was the last straw. I couldn’t take it anymore.

More Examples

This excerpt is about fan disappointment in losing one of their favorite basketball players from the team.

  • The last straw for many Knicks fans was Jackson acknowledging he’s fielding trade offers for Porzingis, who represents the shining hope for this woebegone franchise. –New York Daily News

This excerpt is from a news article about families in Central America fleeing their home countries to settle in Mexico.

  • The last straw came when a gang leader told the girl she was going to become his girlfriend whether she wanted to or not. –New York Daily News


The idiom last straw is another way to say that an individual or group of people won’t put up with any further problems because the problem has occurred one too many times.