What Does Tying Up Loose Ends Mean?

Tying Up Loose Ends Meaning

Definition: To complete some minor, unfinished business.

Origin of Tying Up Loose Ends

The term loose ends refers to the ends of a rope, string, or cable that needs to be fastened. Most sources speculate that the term loose ends, and the longer expression tying up loose ends, both come from nautical origins.

If a sailor needed to prepare his boat for departure, he has many things to do. One of the minor details is making sure to tie any untied strings on board the ship.

This is a common expression in business contexts as well as in more informal, conversational English. People at a company might talk about tying up some loose ends of a work project. In this context, they mean that there are some final details about a project that they must work on before the project is fully finished.

What Does Tying Up Loose Ends Mean?Loose ends has existed since the 1800s. However, tying up loose ends only started becoming popular in the early 1900s.

Examples of Tying Up Loose Ends

This example shows two college students using the idiom while they are working on a school project.

Frank: Wow! I think we are finally finished with this project. Thank goodness!

Karl: Don’t celebrate just yet. We’re almost done, but I still need to tie up a few loose ends.

Frank: Like what?

Karl: I need to proofread our work and enter the citations in the correct format.

Frank: Oh, okay. That shouldn’t take long. Almost finished!

tie up loose ends In this example, two friends are discussing a surprise party that they are planning.

Lily: I think everything is ready for the party. We don’t have anything left to do, right?

Grace: Not much. I’m just tying up loose ends right now. I have to order the cake online and email the digital invitations, and then we’re all done!

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about how a TV show concluded.

  • The final episode of “Breaking Bad” saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston) tying up loose ends. –New York Post

This excerpt is also about TV shows and how some of them leave parts of the story unexplained and unresolved.

  • Other long-running series of the time simply went away quietly without tying up loose ends. –LA Times


Tying up loose ends means finishing some trivial matters in order to conclude a matter.