There was the following sentence in Time magazine’s a bit old article (December 11, 2013) titled, “Pope Francis, the people’s Pope,” in which I was drawn to the phrase, “sign the final flourish”:

“He returned o Buenos Aires and looked to retirement. - - He handed his letter of resignation to the Pope when he turned 75 in 2011.”I’m starting to consider the fact that I have to leave everything behind,” he said in 2010. “It makes me want to be fair with everyone always, to sign the final flourish ... But death is my thought every day.” He insisted he was not sad, and he went on posing for pictures with the faithful.”


I thought “sign the flourish” an idiom, but I don’t find the phrase in dictionaries I use to consult, or on Google.”

I wondered if it’s similar with Japanese idiom, “一花咲かせる-hitohana sakaseru” meaning to bloom the last blossoms at the ending, at the last stage of one's career, or before retiring, like a baseball player who passed his peak hitting a streak of homeruns before retiring, but then, the word, “sign” seems to be incongruent.

Or, does “sign the flourish” mean “sign by using decorated-letters”?

What does the phrase, Pope wanted to “sign the final flourish” mean?

2 Answers 2


When you sign something with a flourish you make a kind of bold dramatic motion of the pen.

I think it's a metaphor to living the end of his life, and how he would like to deal with it, in style and displaying good character.

  • Do you mean 'good personal qualities / features (by OALED)' by 'good character"? Mar 9, 2014 at 8:50
  • 2
    Yes, good personal qualities. You could think of his life as a document he has spent his life composing, and now it's time to boldly add the final signature rather than letting the letters trail off the page or ending in a half-sentence. The signature of a document is where you take full ownership of (responsibility for) everything that has been written, so that would be a connection with character. Mar 9, 2014 at 11:59

Generally it just means to give things closure in an elegant way, similar to “dotting your Is and crossing your Ts,” but perhaps with more grace. The connection here to the end of a life adds poignance to it.

  • I’m trying to find the common points of your and Spehro Pefhancy’s answers to get the idea of ‘sign the final flourish, but unable yet. Could you a bit more elaborate the last line of your answer? Mar 9, 2014 at 9:09
  • 1
    “Final flourish” is an idiom meaning “finishing touches,” such as the decorative finish to a signature. The author is using it here as a metaphor for the final actions of his life. The fact that they are dying acts makes the idiom more poignant than usual. Mar 9, 2014 at 9:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.