End in Smoke: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
July 11, 2023

"End in smoke" is a popular idiom that means to fail or to come to nothing. It's often used when describing projects, plans, or dreams that have failed to materialize, leaving nothing behind but disappointment and wasted effort.

In short:

"End in smoke" means to fail or be unsuccessful after a lot of effort, excitement, or activity.

What Does "End in Smoke" Mean?

When something "ends in smoke," it's as if all the hard work, time, and resources invested in it have evaporated into thin air, just like smoke. The phrase typically conveys a sense of frustration, disappointment, or disillusionment with the outcome of a situation or endeavor.

Key aspects of the idiom's meaning:

  • The idiom means to come to nothing or fail completely, especially after a lot of effort or investment.
  • When you use the phrase "end in smoke," you're comparing an effort or project to smoke, which disappears and leaves no substantial result behind.
  • This idiom is useful when talking about plans, dreams, or projects that did not succeed or materialize as expected.
  • For example, if a business project involving a lot of time and money fails and does not yield any results, you can say that the project "ended in smoke."

Where Does "End in Smoke" Come From?

The phrase "end in smoke" originates from the idea that smoke represents insubstantiality and disappearance. When something "ends in smoke," it means it's disappearing without leaving anything tangible or meaningful behind, just like smoke dissipates into the air. The idiom has been used in English language literature for centuries, expressing failed endeavors or fruitless outcomes.

Historical Example

"That after all the great Clamour that had been rais'd, their Secret Committee would end in Smoke."

- The Whole Proceedings Against Robert, Earl of Oxford, 1715

10 Examples of "End in Smoke" in Sentences

To understand the idiom's usage better, let's look at its use in various contexts:

  • Our plans for the picnic ended in smoke because of the unexpected rainstorm.
  • While initially living the dream, his ventures eventually ended in smoke when investments failed.
  • Feeling down when my plans end in smoke, I still try to learn something from it.
  • The political campaign ended in smoke when the candidate was involved in a scandal.
  • Her ambitions to start her own business ended in smoke after the investors shut the door on her.
  • The peace talks between the two nations ended in smoke as both parties could not reach an agreement.
  • Despite being in a rut for weeks, I was determined not to let my efforts end in smoke.
  • His unexpected resignation threw me off, making the whole project end in smoke.
  • They tried to renovate the old house, but their efforts ended in smoke when they ran out of funds.
  • The same old strategies were employed but ended in smoke this time, yielding no results.

Examples of "End in Smoke" in Pop Culture

From books to movies, the idiom "end in smoke" often appears in popular culture:

  • A quote from the 2005 book In the Shadow of the Moon: Prologue by John S. Bohne: "If you believe in smoke, you will end in smoke. That is the law of spirituality."
  • A quote from the 2011 book What I Saw in America by G.K. Chesterton: "For such people the Seventh Heaven Cigar; like the nineteenth-century city; will have ended in smoke."
  • "End Up In Smoke" is a song by Hardfaced from their 2014 album Dying Lake.

Other/Different Ways to Say "End in Smoke"

There are several synonyms and phrases that can be used as alternatives to "end in smoke," depending on the context:

  • Come to nothing
  • Fall through
  • Turn to dust
  • Go down the drain
  • Go up in smoke
  • Hit a dead end
  • Go pear-shaped
  • Meet a dead end
  • Run into a brick wall

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "End in Smoke":

  • What is the meaning of "end in smoke"?

The phrase "end in smoke" refers to the disappointing end of plans or efforts, typically resulting in failure or non-achievement.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "end in smoke"?

The idiom originates from the metaphor of smoke, which represents insubstantiality and disappearance, to convey fruitless outcomes or failed endeavors.

  • Can "end in smoke" have positive connotations?

Generally, "end in smoke" has negative connotations, indicating failed efforts or unsuccessful outcomes. It's rarely associated with positive contexts.

  • Can I use "end in smoke" in formal writing?

"End in smoke" can be used in both formal and informal contexts. However, in more formal or academic writing, it might be more appropriate to use phrases like "came to nothing" or "failed to produce desired results".

  • How can I replace "end in smoke" in a sentence?

You can replace "end in smoke" with phrases like "come to nothing," "fall through," or "go down the drain," depending on the context.

  • Is "end in smoke" a British or American idiom?

"End in smoke" is a universal English idiom, understood and used in both British and American English, as well as other English-speaking regions.

  • Do people use it in everyday conversation?

Yes, "end in smoke" is a common idiom and is frequently used in everyday conversation, especially when discussing failed plans or unsuccessful attempts.

  • Can "end in smoke" describe temporary situations?

Yes, "end in smoke" is often used to describe temporary situations. It typically signifies an event or attempt that has resulted in failure or non-achievement.

  • Can I use it to describe people?

While "end in smoke" generally describes situations or events, it can indirectly refer to individuals, as in, "His plans to become a millionaire ended in smoke."

  • Can I use it in a literal sense?

"End in smoke" is a figurative idiom, not typically used in a literal sense. It metaphorically represents the vanishing or non-existence of outcomes, like smoke disappearing in the air.

Final Thoughts About "End in Smoke"

The phrase "end in smoke" vividly captures the frustration and disappointment accompanying failed plans or unsuccessful endeavors.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "End in smoke" is a compelling idiom that signifies that your efforts have unfortunately come to naught.
  • This idiom fits a variety of scenarios, underscoring the disappointment one feels when hard work doesn't pay off.
  • Feeling creative? Try its synonyms, like "come to nothing," "fall through," or "go down the drain," to bring some variety to your conversations.

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