Something's Got To Give: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 25, 2023

The idiom "Something's got to give" is a ubiquitous phrase in the English language. Its essence revolves around a tense situation that cannot continue as it is and must inevitably change. This idiom is commonly used to express an untenable circumstance where two opposing forces or factors are at odds, and a compromise or decision is due to occur. One way or another, something has to change; something's got to give.

In short:

"Something's got to give" is an idiom that signifies a tense, unbalanced situation that requires resolution or change.

What Does "Something's Got to Give" Mean?

The idiom "Something's got to give" communicates a sense of tension or pressure that requires relief. It reflects a situation or circumstance where conflicting elements are present, and the status quo is unsustainable.

Before we delve into more detail, here are some important aspects of this idiom:

  • The idiom suggests a conflict or struggle between two opposing forces.
  • It implies that a change or resolution is imminent because the current situation cannot continue indefinitely.
  • Often, it conveys a sense of urgency, necessitating immediate action or decision.

In variations of this expression, the word 'something' can be replaced with the particular issue at hand, such as 'this tension's got to give' or 'their rivalry's got to give'. Other related idioms include 'the straw that broke the camel's back,' indicating the final cause of a drastic change, and at the end of one's tether,' expressing a state of exasperation or frustration where change is imminent.

Where Does "Something's Got to Give" Come From?

The precise origin of the phrase "Something's got to give" is somewhat elusive. However, the concept it embodies of tension leading to inevitable change is ancient, permeating various cultures and philosophies. One of the earliest recorded uses of a similar phrase is found in the works of Samuel Butler. In his satirical poem 'Hudibras' (1663)

Historical Example

"For when once the lurking traitor, Plot, hath lain so long in the pot, Let it e'er so long lie hid, When 'tis spied, 'something's got to give'."

—'Hudibras' (1663), Butler

10 Examples of "Something's Got to Give" in Sentences

Here are ten instances where the idiom can be employed in sentences:

  • I've been juggling multiple deadlines, and with the workload piling up, something's got to give, but I know my colleagues have my back.
  • If we keep working at this pace without a break, something's got to give.
  • Between managing a full-time job and caring for a sick parent, Mary felt that something's got to give.
  • I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling overwhelmed. It seems like something's got to give, and I hope things get better soon.
  • He's been studying all day and night for weeks; at this point, something's got to give.
  • These high-stakes negotiations have been at a standstill for too long, and something's got to give.
  • After months of working overtime, I reached a breaking point and exclaimed, Something's got to giveWith kind regards, I requested a well-deserved vacation from my boss.
  • Two stubborn people in a relationship - sooner or later, something's got to give.
  • With the pressure of school, sports, and a part-time job, Jimmy knew something's got to give.
  • After working long hours every day, something's got to give, so I believe in you to make the right decision and prioritize your well-being.

Examples of "Something's Got to Give" in Pop Culture

The phrase has also found its way into popular culture, as seen in these examples:

  • The idiom was the title for a 2003 romantic comedy film, Something's Gotta Give.
  • It's the name of a popular song by the band OneRepublic, and Something's Gotta Give.
  • In the television series "Breaking Bad," Walter White says, "At this rate, something's got to give."
  • The song 'Something's Gotta Give' by the band All Time Low uses this idiom as well.
  • John F. Kennedy, in a press conference about the Cuban Missile Crisis, stated, "With the current state of events, something's got to give."
  • The idiom is used in the lyrics of the song "Something's Gotta Give" by Ella Fitzgerald.
  • In the movie "The Perfect Storm," Captain Billy Tyne says, "The way the weather's been, something's got to give."
  • LeBron James used this idiom during a press conference after a loss in the NBA finals: "With the way we've been playing, something's got to give."

Other Ways to Say "Something's Got to Give" in Sentences

There are numerous ways to convey the same meaning as this idiom.

Here are 10 examples:

  • With all these responsibilities, there has to be a breaking point.
  • If this tension continues, a resolution has to happen.
  • The situation can't continue like this; change is inevitable.
  • With all the pressure, there's a limit to what one can take.
  • The stress is too much; something must change.
  • There has to be a relief point for all this stress.
  • This disagreement can't last forever; there will be a compromise.
  • If things continue this way, it's only a matter of time before the bubble bursts.
  • At this rate, the end of the rope is near.
  • With such intense competition, a decisive moment is due.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Something's Got to Give"

  • What is the origin of the idiom 'Something's got to give'?

The precise origin of this idiom is unclear, but it's been used in various forms in literature dating back to the 17th century, such as in Samuel Butler's 'Hudibras'.

  • What does "Something's got to give" mean?

It means that in a conflicting or tense situation, a change or resolution is due because the current situation can't continue as it is.

  • How is the idiom "Something's got to give" used in everyday language?

It's used to express a situation of tension or conflict that needs resolution or change. It can relate to any circumstance, from personal relationships to business dynamics or social issues.

  • Is the idiom "Something's got to give" used in popular culture?

Yes, it is. Examples include its use as a movie title, song lyrics, and in dialogue in TV series and films.

  • Can the idiom "Something's Got to Give" be altered to fit different situations?

Absolutely. The word "something" can be replaced with a specific issue, such as "this tension's got to give" or "their rivalry's got to give".

  • Are there other idioms that mean the same as "Something's got to give"?

Yes, idioms like "the straw that broke the camel's back" and 'at the end of one's tether' convey similar meanings.

  • How often is the phrase "Something's got to give" used?

While it's difficult to quantify, the phrase is relatively common in English, particularly in situations of conflict, tension, or high stakes.

  • Does the idiom "Something's got to give" indicate a positive or negative situation?

The idiom itself is neutral, simply indicating a situation of tension that requires resolution. Whether that situation is seen as positive or negative depends on the context.

  • What's a synonym for "Something's got to give"?

A synonym could be "a breaking point is near"or "change is inevitable".

  • Can the idiom '"Something's got to give" be used globally?

Yes. As an English idiom, it can be understood by English speakers worldwide, though some non-native speakers might not be familiar with it.

Final Thoughts About "Something's Got to Give"

The idiom "Something's got to give" encapsulates complex scenarios and emotions in a single phrase. The phrase adds color and richness to our language. It communicates the innate human experience of dealing with tension and conflict and our longing for resolution.

  • Meaning: This idiom refers to a situation that is unsustainable in its current form and thus requires a change or resolution.
  • Usage: It can be used in a wide array of contexts, be it personal, professional, or societal, in any circumstance where there is a conflict or a state of tension.
  • Popularity: The phrase is widely recognized and used in everyday language, literature, and pop culture, solidifying its place in the English vocabulary.
  • Flexibility: It can be adapted to suit different situations or issues, making it a versatile addition to one's vocabulary.

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