Done To Death: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 24, 2023

The phrase "done to death" usually refers to something that has been excessively overused or repeated to the point of tedium. It's often used to describe a topic, a joke, a trend, or an idea that has been so thoroughly explored or utilized that it lacks originality and freshness. Whether it's a conversation topic worn out in social circles or a plot device in a movie that's been used countless times, when something is "done to death," it's time to move on to something new.

In short:

  • "Done to death" refers to something that has been overly exploited or excessively used.
  • It indicates the need to move on to something new or more original.

What Does "Done to Death" Mean?

The idiom "done to death" generally means that something has been excessively used or discussed to the point where it's become boring or uninteresting. If you declare a topic as "done to death," you're expressing that it's been discussed or used so much that it's lost its appeal or relevance.

Let's delve into its core meanings and usage:

  • "Done to death" implies that a subject, concept, or trend has been overly explored or used, causing it to lose its original charm or appeal.
  • It signifies the overuse of certain things, be it jokes, storytelling tropes, fashion trends, or even conversational topics.
  • You can use "done to death" to express fatigue or boredom from the overuse of something. For example, if a particular song is being played over and over again, you might say that it has been "done to death."
  • Similar phrases to "done to death" include "beaten to death," "overdone," "worn out," and "overplayed."

Where Does "Done to Death" Come From?

The idiom "done to death" has a somewhat dramatic origin, as it originally meant to do something so excessively that it leads to death. However, its modern usage is less dramatic and more figurative, implying that something is done so much that it's metaphorically "killed" - that is, it's lost its appeal or effectiveness. Today, it's often used to describe overused clichés, tired jokes, or worn-out trends.

Historical Example

"The amazing thing is that this sort of rough-and-ready American mishigas collage film was done to death in the late '60s."

- J. Hoberman on Betzy Bromberg, Feb 1981

10 Examples of "Done to Death" in Sentences

To better illustrate the usage of the phrase "done to death," here are some examples from a variety of contexts:

  • The two dancers performed their routine in tandem, but the choreography felt done to death and lacked originality.
  • Do you know that old joke about why the chicken crossed the road? That's been done to death, but it's still right up my alley.
  • If you want to impress the judges, you have to step up your game and avoid routines that have been done to death.
  • Floral prints in summer fashion collections feel like they've been done to death.
  • The sequel movie followed in the same vein as its predecessor, but the plot was done to death and failed to captivate the audience.
  • The color-block trend in interior design has been done to death recently.
  • Every holiday season, the same Christmas songs are played; but to many, they feel done to death.
  • Many readers feel that the "chosen one" trope in fantasy novels is done to death.
  • That old skool hip-hop beat has been done to death, but it still has a unique charm that contemporary music can't quite replicate.
  • He worked hard for months, but it was all for naught. His project was rejected because the concept had been done to death.

Examples of "Done to Death" in Pop Culture

The idiom "done to death" is often used in pop culture, typically to denote concepts or themes that have been overused or are no longer original.

Let's see some instances:

  • "Done to Death" is a comedy mystery play by Fred Carmichael. The plot involves five mystery fiction writers who are caught up in real-life murders.
  • "Done to Death" is also a book series by Charles Atkins that combines elements of mystery and humor. It tells the story of two amateur sleuths investigating a series of murders.
  • "Til It's Done To Death" is a song by John Nolan. The lyrics include: "Hold your tongue, boy / Hold onto your breath / 'cause it's not done / 'til it's done to death..."
  • "No, no, not his father. The father thing has been done to death. He's searching for his brother." is a line from the 1993 movie Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Done to Death"

There are several other phrases that convey a similar meaning to "done to death."

Here are a few:

  • Beaten to death
  • Worn out
  • Overdone
  • Played out
  • Overused
  • Run into the ground
  • Used up
  • Tired
  • Overplayed
  • Flogged to death

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Done to Death":

  • What does "done to death" mean?

The phrase "done to death" refers to something that has been so overused, repeated, or done so frequently that it has become boring or lacks originality.

  • How can I use "done to death" in a sentence?

You can use the phrase to express that a topic, trend, or idea has been excessively used to the point of being trite or dull. For example, "He was about to throw in the towel and give up on his dream when a critic told him his music style has been done to death."

  • Where does the idiom "done to death" originate from?

The exact origin of the phrase "done to death" is unclear, but it's likely that it stems from the literal concept of something being done so excessively that it's akin to killing it.

  • Is the phrase "done to death" used in casual conversation?

Yes, "done to death" is often used in informal conversations to express dissatisfaction with overused concepts, ideas, or trends.

  • Does "done to death" only apply to creative works like movies, books, and music?

No, while it's frequently used in the context of creative works, "done to death" can apply to any situation where a concept, idea, or practice is repeated excessively to the point of losing its impact or appeal.

  • Can "done to death" refer to behaviors or practices?

Yes, "done to death" can refer to behaviors or practices. For example, "His habit of always telling the same joke is done to death."

  • Is "done to death" a negative term?

Typically, yes. When something is described as "done to death," it indicates that it lacks originality or has lost its appeal due to excessive repetition.

  • Does "done to death" always imply boredom?

While it doesn't always explicitly imply boredom, the phrase usually suggests a sense of fatigue or ennui resulting from overexposure or excessive repetition of a concept or idea.

  • What's the opposite of "done to death"?

Terms like "fresh", "novel", "innovative", or "original" can be considered the opposite of "done to death".

  • Is "done to death" a commonly used phrase?

Yes, "done to death" is a commonly used idiom in English, especially when discussing ideas, themes, or trends that are viewed as overused or lacking in originality.

Final Thoughts About "Done to Death"

The idiom "done to death" can be an effective way to express frustration or boredom with something that has become too common or repetitive. It's often used to critique movies, books, songs, or even social and cultural trends that seem to lack originality.

Here's a quick recap:

  • The phrase "done to death" conveys a sense of something being overused to the point of being trite or dull.
  • It can be used in a variety of contexts, including discussions about art, music, literature, fashion, and social trends.
  • Though it generally carries a negative connotation, it can also stimulate creativity by encouraging people to seek out fresh, original ideas instead of relying on those that have been "done to death."

In a world where originality and novelty are often prized, understanding and appropriately using phrases like "done to death" can help you to communicate effectively and critically about the things you encounter in your daily life.

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