In Swedish, the expression "det var droppen som fick bägaren att rinna över", directly translated to "the droplet that caused the beaker to overflow", is used to express that enough is enough. Is there a similar expression in English?


Try this:

The straw that broke the camel’s back.

This write-up traces the saying’s history back to long ago, noting that Seneca once wrote in “On Despising Death” (Letter XXIV):

Counting even yesterday, all past time is lost time; the very day which we are now spending is shared between ourselves and death. It is not the last drop that empties the water-clock, but all that which previously has flowed out; similarly, the final hour when we cease to exist does not of itself bring death; it merely of itself completes the death-process.

And the online thesaurus seems to think that “match in the powder barrel” is a synonym for “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

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    I never realised it was a drinking straw. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 29 '13 at 9:48
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    It doesn't necessarily have to be. A dried stalk of grain does the job too. The point is.. it's very light :) – SmokerAtStadium Mar 29 '13 at 9:59
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    You might also say: "it was the final straw". – donothingsuccessfully Mar 29 '13 at 10:06
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    @EdwinAshworth, what makes you think it's a drinking straw? I always thought it was a stalk of hay. – Kristina Lopez Mar 29 '13 at 14:13
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    Being Swedish myself, this is the expression I tend to prefer to translate that idiom. It isn't a literal translation, but then again idioms rarely translate well literally anyway. – a CVn Mar 29 '13 at 17:58

I just have to include my favorite expression, "It's always the last thing you did that got you in trouble" - it somehow always seems to be true. In your expression, it was adding that last drop that overflowed the beaker.

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    How about some feedback, downvoter? – Kristina Lopez Mar 29 '13 at 14:41

There is a perfectly elegant way to say it and it is known in the English lexicon. It does, however, suggests too much of something good, rather than bad:

His cup runneth over.

It's a Biblical excerpt . Used in the negative sense, it might make for a clever play on words, say, used for irony or a sarcastic comment. Context would matter. Example:

After her speeches on altruism and the disgrace of poverty, the head cheerleader's cup runneth over with catty comments about her family and her lifestyle.

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This is the drop that filled the glass.

or else simply:

This was the last drop!

There are probably more (as @tchrist's answer shows).

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  • "This was the last drop" means something completely different, it's usually said when you no longer can control your anger! – vsz Mar 30 '13 at 8:11
  • @vsz Really? Well, that explains the downvotes. I know it's usually said when you can no longer control your anger but not exclusively. Thanks for the feedback. – SmokerAtStadium Mar 30 '13 at 10:20

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