First recorded in 1875-80
The following site suggests it is from a poem dated 1793
The term "do or die" comes from Robert Burns' poem "Robert Bruce's March to Bannockburn" which was a poem about the first War of Scottish Independence.The last stanza of the poem reads:
Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us Do or Die!
and also Google Books shows usages from late 18th/early 19th century,
while according to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms do or die has a much earlier origin:
- Exert supreme effort because failure is close at hand, as in Carol was going to set up the computer, do or die. This hyperbolic expression in effect says one will not be deterred by any obstacle. [c. 1600]
So, where does this common saying come from? Was it from a poem composed much earlier than Robert Burns' one?