At One’s Wit’s End

Meaning of “At One’s Wit’s End”

The phrase “at one’s wit’s end” means that a person has no response to anything. However, it also means confusion. The phrase is commonly used when a person is highly perplexed, and he becomes speechless at what he sees or hears.

Origin of “At One’s Wit’s End”

The phrase “at one’s wit’s end” is might have been taken from William Langland’s poem, Piers Plowman, published in 1377. It goes: “Astronomyens also aren at hir wittes ende.” However, it is interesting to note that the phrase has appeared in Psalms 107:27 in the Bible: They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. In this verse, the phrase is used in its actual form. In both examples, the meanings are the same: perplexity of a person.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

My Wits End by Phil Soar

I’ve been at my wits end for a while now
It’s a place, if you know what I mean
I can choose when I go, though the trips rather slow
And I lay there, as if in a dream

This four-lined poem uses the phrase as the title of this poem. The poem means that a person has the option to leave the place and go anywhere they want. However, he does not go and stays there feeling confused for a while. It means that although he is perplexed or confused to stay, it seems to him that he is doing this in a dream.

Example #2

At Wit’s End written by John Petrucci and sung by Dream Theatre

Let me help you, how much longer till you realize?
You’re getting worse and it’s killing you inside
I can’t break through, do you have to face this on your own?
Want to be left alone

Don’t leave me now, don’t leave me now
I know that it’s tearing you apart
Don’t leave me now, don’t leave me now
Come alive

You feel I’m asking too much of you but can’t let go
Fear breeds the hate and your apathy, empty and hollow
You lost your face, there’s no getting through. Why shut me out?
Frantic, disturbed, filled with misery, can’t figure it out

Sleepless, worse for wear

This is one of the best songs written by John Petrucci. It talks about a lover who addresses his beloved, saying that the separation between them is tearing them apart. He requests her to stay with him. At the same time, it seems to the speaker that he is might be asking too much from his beloved by requesting her to stay. Then he confesses that he is perplexed and worn out thinking and having sleepless nights.

Example #3

Wit’s End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It by James Geary

James Geary wrote on the issue of wit. He explains how it is linked with intelligence and quickness and makes a person seem a genius. He has also explored how wittiness shows the relationship of language, use of puns, and repetitions. You can also find different types of wits. In the book, you can explore different perspectives of wit such as folktales, visual arts, literature, and psychology. The book is a final word on the art of wit. Perhaps, the author wants to express that art can make people go speechless if it impresses them.

Example #4

It’s All in Your Mind by Prithwis Datta

“He’s getting away, you fool! Go after him, Sanjay. Get him right now.” He got back in the car, but could not stop Deepa screaming. She was totally hysterical – her attacker was getting away. He had to be stopped and killed. Sanjay had to stop being a coward. They drove off. Sanjay rolled down his window, hoping that the cool night air would help clear his head.

He was at his wits’ end as they drew up to their apartment building, with Deepa alternately screaming and sobbing and groaning. As the watchman came up to open the gate, she screamed, “Sanjay, this is the man,” pointing to the watchman, a well-built country fellow. “Catch him and finish him off. Be quick – don’t sit there gaping at me, you hear.”

In the novel, characters of Sanjay and Deepa are involved in the argument over pursuing her attacker. As Deepa is crying, Sanjay is perplexed as he could not think a way out. The phrase has been used to show his state of mind. Sanjay is confused and perplexed about the existing situation.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Portia tried all the combination of the lock. She was at her wit’s end when she realized the first key would have worked.”

Example #2: “For a while, Joe kept staring at the wall as he was at his wit’s end. He had never seen a hologram that looked so realistic.

Example #3: “Gigi won the argument while Stan looked at the end of his wit’s end. He never thought he’d lose an argument with an eight-year-old girl.

Example #4: “It’s alright to be at your wit’s end instead of saying something that might end your relationship.”

Example #5: “Otis was at his wit’s end as he didn’t know which course to take. There were at least 50 categories and specialty in it.”