Last Hurrah: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
April 25, 2024

The idiom "last hurrah" is often used to describe a final act, performance, or effort, particularly one that is intended to be memorable or significant. It's like a big goodbye or a final stand before a significant change or end.

In short:

"Last hurrah" refers to a final, often significant, act or effort before a major change or end.

What Does "Last Hurrah" Mean?

The phrase "last hurrah" suggests a final gesture or attempt, often marked by a sense of closure or culmination. It's used in various contexts, from personal achievements to public events, indicating the last notable occurrence before a significant change or the end of an era.

The idiom can carry both a celebratory and a bittersweet tone, depending on the circumstances:

  • A final effort to achieve something significant.
  • The last in a series of events, performances, or productions.
  • A concluding act or event that serves as a capstone to a career or phase of life.
  • Often associated with retirement, farewells, or concluding projects.

Where Does "Last Hurrah" Come From?

The origin of the idiom "last hurrah" is often associated with political and social contexts, particularly in American culture. It gained widespread popularity through Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel "The Last Hurrah," which tells the story of a fictional Boston mayor's final campaign. This novel and the subsequent film adaptation helped cement the phrase in the American lexicon, giving it the connotation of a final, grand effort or stand, especially in a political or career context.

Historical Usage

Before its literary association, the term "hurrah" was used in various forms to express joy, approval, or encouragement, often in military or celebratory settings. The combination of "last" with "hurrah" to signify a final act of significance seems to have evolved, with O'Connor's work giving it a definitive narrative that resonated with the public.

10 Examples of "Last Hurrah" in Sentences

Here are ten sentences showcasing how the idiom "last hurrah" can be used in various contexts:

  • The retiring CEO's groundbreaking project was seen as his last hurrah before stepping down.
  • After decades of teaching, she planned her final lecture to be a memorable last hurrah.
  • Fans described the band's farewell tour as their last hurrah on the global stage.
  • Winning the championship was the perfect last hurrah for the retiring athlete.
  • The film director announced his upcoming movie would be his last hurrah in the industry.
  • As the shop closed for the last time, the owner threw a party as a last hurrah for the community.
  • The veteran politician's final campaign was dubbed his last hurrah by the media.
  • She viewed her solo trip around the world as a last hurrah before settling down.
  • The reunion concert gave the old band members one last hurrah together after years apart.
  • Before the historic building was demolished, the city organized a last hurrah to celebrate its history.

Examples of "Last Hurrah" in Pop Culture

The idiom has made its way into pop culture; here are some notable examples:

  • "The Last Hurrah" (1958) is a film that explores the life of a veteran politician, Frank Skeffington, as he runs for yet another term as mayor, which turns out to be his final campaign. A notable quote from the movie is by Amos Force: "You bungled it! You should've applied pressure! His endorsement would've meant everything!" This line reflects the high-stakes political maneuvering and the intense pressure of electoral politics.
  • "The Last Hurrah" by Victoria Anders contains the quote: "Instead of being dead, I only feel half-dead. It's like I've been living in a cocoon of crap, and suddenly, the crap is not as thick." This book likely delves into themes of personal transformation and the struggle to find meaning amidst life's challenges.
  • "Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah" by Rachel Cohn includes a reflective thought: "I've tried breaking things to feel better - and found that it only feels better while things are breaking, not the next moment, not the next day." This novel, co-authored with David Levithan, explores themes of youth, change, and the bittersweet nature of farewells.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Last Hurrah"

There are several ways to express the concept of a "last hurrah" without using the exact phrase.

Here are some alternatives:

  • Final bow - Often used in the context of performances or careers, indicating the last appearance or act.
  • Swan song - Traditionally refers to a final gesture or performance before retirement or the end of something.
  • He who laughs last, laughs loudest - Means the one who gets the final success enjoys it the most, regardless of earlier setbacks.
  • Last man standing - Typically used to describe a final act of defiance or resistance.
  • Farewell performance - Indicates the last performance or appearance of an artist or public figure.
  • Grand finale - Used to describe the final part or event in a series, often with a sense of climax or conclusion.
  • Final act - Refers to the last part of a performance or event, signaling the end.
  • Curtain call - The final appearance of performers at the end of a show, often used metaphorically to signify the end of other types of careers or roles.
  • Final call - A final effort or attempt, especially one that is significant or conclusive.
  • That's a wrap - Used to signify the end of a period, story, or series of events.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Last Hurrah"

  • What does "last hurrah" mean?

"Last hurrah" refers to a final act, effort, or performance, especially one that is intended to be memorable or significant, marking the end of an era or a phase in someone's life.

  • Where did the idiom "last hurrah" originate?

The idiom gained popularity from Edwin O'Connor's 1956 novel "The Last Hurrah," which depicted a fictional mayor's final political campaign.

  • Can "last hurrah" be used in a non-political context?

Yes, "last hurrah" can be applied to any final act or event in various contexts, not just political, including personal achievements, careers, and social events.

  • Is "last hurrah" a positive or negative expression?

The expression can be both positive and negative, depending on the context. It can celebrate a final, memorable effort or signify the end of something with a sense of nostalgia or loss.

  • How can "last hurrah" be used in a sentence?

"The farewell concert was the band's last hurrah before they disbanded."

  • Are there any famous quotes that include "last hurrah"?

While specific famous quotes may not always include "last hurrah," the term is often used in literature and speeches to denote a final noteworthy effort or event.

  • What are some synonyms for "last hurrah"?

Synonyms include "swan song," "final bow," "parting shot," and "grand finale," among others.

  • Can "last hurrah" refer to a group's final effort, or is it only for individuals?

The term can refer to both individual and collective final efforts, such as a team's last game or a band's farewell tour.

  • Is "last hurrah" commonly used in everyday language?

Yes, "last hurrah" is commonly used in everyday language to describe final events or efforts in various contexts.

  • How has the use of "last hurrah" evolved?

Originally popularized by literature, "last hurrah" has evolved to be used more broadly in both formal and informal contexts, maintaining its core meaning while being applied to a wider range of final acts or events.

Final Thoughts About "Last Hurrah"

The idiom "last hurrah" encapsulates the essence of a final act or effort with a sense of significance and closure. Whether it's a farewell performance, a retirement event, or the end of an era, this phrase beautifully conveys the bittersweet nature of endings meant to be remembered.

  • The phrase can apply to various scenarios, from personal achievements to public events.
  • Its usage underscores the importance of leaving a lasting impression or concluding on a high note.
  • "Last hurrah" carries both celebratory and reflective connotations, making it a versatile expression in English.

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