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Idiom

The Last Straw: Origin and Meaning

Meaning
The last in a series of bad events which finally causes someone to lose their cool; the problem which increases the pressure to the point where the situation collapses. The longer version of the phrase is: “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Origin
The last strawCenturies ago in the Middle East, straw (dried grass or grain) was used for weaving or building and could be bought and sold by traders, who transported their goods using camels. An Arabian story described a man who made his camel carry as much straw as possible. Still unsatisfied with the huge weight being carried by the animal, the man added a single last piece of straw. This last straw proved too much for the camel to bear and he collapsed with a broken back, leaving the man with no way to take his goods to market. The story is a metaphor for the times when someone faces repeated problems or is badly treated again and again until finally, one small thing pushes them to the point of explosion. They might get angry and retaliate or decide “enough is enough” and try to change their situation. We use this idiom to highlight the problem that finally created too much pressure to cope with, saying “it was the last straw” or “it was the straw that broke the camel’s back”
Examples
Mother: “Why aren’t you talking to your sister?”

Lauren: “Well, first she borrowed my favourite dress without asking, and I forgave her for that, but when she took my car when I told her not to, it was the last straw.”

Interviewer: “Why do you think that Scotland voted so strongly against the Conservatives in the recent election?”
Politician: “Well, I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back when the Prime Minister didn’t even make the effort to come to visit Scotland during his election campaign.”

William: “I’ve never seen you this angry! What’s happened?”

Lisa: “I’ve had such a bad day…first, I missed the bus and was late for work, then I lost my wallet and the last straw was when I realised that I’d left my door keys at home, so I’m locked out!”