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I was reading my child a manga story today and one character said, "here goes nothing." I hadn't heard that expression since I myself was a kid, and I always took it to mean "here goes my best try." Looking online, I found very little in terms of explaining the origin and meaning of this phrase.

Perhaps one of you can enlighten me?

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I believe this is a variation of "Here we go!" where you're expecting a negative result, especially if you've nothing to lose you might as well have a punt.


The oldest "here goes nothing" I can find is from 1889's Fibre & Fabric:

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"The latest nagging remark; 'Oh, throw yourself In a hole,and say here goes nothing.'"


However, there are earlier variants.

1875's Gulliver's travels into several remote nations of the world has:

enter image description here

"and it would be awkward if I were to step into a hornet's nest. But here goes ; nothing like pluck ! there's always a way out where there's a way in.


And 1885's Blackwood's Edinburgh magazine:

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In five minutes I may get my dismissal, and be told to pack my traps. Never mind : here goes — nothing venture, nothing win."

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15  
Hugo, the second two citations have nothing to do with the idiom at all; they just coincidentally contain the same sequence of words, that's all. – JeffSahol Sep 25 '11 at 21:54
3  
+1 for the image version of your reference; it adds a nice touch. – John Tobler Sep 26 '11 at 22:11
    
Yeah, it seems likely that expressions like "Here goes -- noting ventured, nothing gained" got shortened into "Here goes nothing." – Hot Licks Jun 19 at 12:48
    
I agree with @JeffSahol that the last two citations are probably pure coincidence. What seems more likely to me is that the meaning of "here goes nothing" was strictly compositional. "Here goes" existed as a stand-alone phrase which means "something is going to happen" (idioms.thefreedictionary.com/here+goes). It combines with "nothing" to mean "nothing is going to happen." Originally it was used in a self-deprecating manner, until it acquired the more general sense of "Here goes an attempt." – Silenus Jun 19 at 12:54

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