Be All and End All

Meaning of “Be All and End All”

The phrase ‘be all and end all’ means anything that is very important or crucial. In other words, it also means the last word or the whole thing that has been said or done. The plural form of the phrase is be-alls and end-alls. As per the Oxford dictionary, the phrase is hyphenated.

Origin of “Be All and End All”

The phrase “be all and end all” was used by William Shakespeare for the first time in his play, Macbeth, published in 1605. Macbeth uses this phrase when he is thinking about killing King Duncan as; “With his surcease, success: that but this blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all.” Since that time, the phrase has been used in the same sense and in the same wording.

Examples of Literature

Example #1

Be All, End All by Anthrax

Life’s not unfair, life’s just life
Death not suicide

Be all, and you’ll be the end all
Life can be a real ball
State of mind

The above verses are from the “Be All, End All” song. The singer means that life is not fair though it is a state of mind whether a person wants to die or not. The real point is that a person is all in all, whether he is dead or alive. The singer uses the phrase in the title. The singer also means that death is a natural process but suicide is not a good option even if life is difficult.

Example #2

The Be All and End All by Runga

If it’s the be all and end all
Then come on now love lets make a start
When love calls how sudden the fall
But fallings the easiest part

I’ve had love come to nothing before
But it’s alright it’s alright
I’ve welcomed it in
And I’ve shown it the door
But it’s alright it’s alright

The singer says that if it is the end and there is no alternative, then they should start loving each other again even though this love will have the same dead end. The phrase has been used as the title of the lyric and also in the first line of the first stanza. The meanings in both cases are the same that even if love ends, they should welcome each other in love.

Example #3

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

(Act -I, Scene -VII)
If it were done, when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well
It were done quickly. If th’ assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease, success: that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all—here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come.

Macbeth is engaged in a daydream that if King Duncan is killed quickly and suddenly, then it will be the “be all and end all” of everything for him. Although Shakespeare has used hyphens in the phrase, the meanings are the same. King Duncan’s death is final and nothing could be done more to succeed as a king.

Example #4

Work It Out! by Des McCabe

This is wrong. Having a job has become the be-all and end-all. If you are claiming unemployment benefits, it is necessary to demonstrate that you are applying for jobs and are available for work at all times. This is, however, an outdated model that was engendered and is kept alive by the traditional antipathy towards ‘dole cheats’.

The author talks about how to go for unemployment benefits and how to get them. He is of the view that a person should not make it the only objective that he should have a job. It is not “be all and end all” of his life. He can get benefits all the same. In fact, he has used this phrase in the same sense that it is not a final word that a person should have a job. He may not have it and still have benefits.

Examples of Sentences

Example #1: “I don’t believe that money is the be all and end-all of life.”

Example #2: “For every filmmaker, Oscar Award is the be all and end all.”

Example #3: “The school president thought he was the be all and end all until the principal decided to stop him.”

Example #4: “He considers his brother is be all and end all in everything where he faces a problem.”

Example #5: “Sometimes, I think that honesty is be all and end all, and sometimes I think white lies are okay to save someone’s life.”