Go For Broke – Meaning, Origin


Go for broke” is a phrase that means a person is attempting to do something, and if they fail, they risk losing everything.

Example: Wilma’s restaurant has seen consistent business over the years. However, recently her customer base has started to shrink. She’s losing money as a result, and if this trend continues, she will have to close up shop for good. In an attempt to save her business, Wilma plans on going for broke by completely redoing the restaurant’s menu and also renovating its interior.

Synonyms/Related: give it one’s all, bet the farm, swing for the fences, pull out all the stops

Go for broke, thrown dice

The Origin Of ‘Go For Broke’

Where does the idiom “go for broke” come from? Before we get to that, I want to highlight one of the definitions for the word “broke.” Sometimes, this word refers to a person who has a small amount of money, or none at all (e.g., I can’t buy this couch because I’m broke). Now, let’s talk about this phrase’s origin.

It’s believed that this expression comes from the dice game “craps.” According to Wiktionary, this phrase is actually slang from Hawaiian Pidgin craps. This game is often played at casinos and the participating players have the option of wagering everything (all of their chips) on a single dice roll. This is a risky move, however, because a bad roll could result in them losing all of their money/chips. In other words, it would leave them broke.

Also of note, there is a 1951 movie called “Go for Broke!” The phrase does not originate from this movie, because it existed before it. For example, it appears in print more than a decade earlier in the newspaper The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, July 1935:

“‚Ķdecided to do things properly, and their favorite contractor was told to go for broke, as the saying is, and to do the place over from caves to basement.

While the phrase did not originate from the movie, the film likely did help in popularizing the term.

Sentence Examples

  • There’s a few minutes left in this basketball game and my team is down by 10 points. If they want to have any chance at winning, they will have to go for broke.
  • I’ve failed my driving test once already, so for the second time around, I’m going for broke.

Related Examples:

  • We have some special guests coming over for dinner, so I’m gonna give it my all and cook my best dish!
  • Rick could really use the money from this dancing competition, so he’ll be swinging for the fences at every occasion.

Tip: This website has the meaning and origin of many phrases. How can you find them, you ask? Just use the menu at the top! It makes finding all the idioms on Know Your Phrase a breeze.

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