I'm looking for an idiom that is equivalent to the Portuguese:

Quem tudo quer, tudo perde.

Who wants everything, loses everything.

It basically points out that being too ambitious will have bad consequences: not only does one not get what one's striving for, but one also ends up losing what one already had (and probably took for granted).

This idiom should be usable in everyday speech.

  • There must be a line from Shakespeare's Macbeth that suits... Dec 26, 2018 at 21:04
  • The story of the Tower of Babel might be relevant,  but I can't think of any idiom that relates to it. Dec 30, 2018 at 5:18
  • A word or phrase request can easily attract a long list of answers when it’s too subjective – more of a poll or request for ideas. Unfortunately neither are a good fit for the Stack Exchange model. A Stack Exchange question is objective and specific enough that it has a clearly “right” answer. See: “Real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions”, “Single word requests, crosswords, and the fight against mediocrity”.
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    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:56
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    Dec 31, 2018 at 14:56
  • @MetaEd: I'm sorry but I honestly don't understand what's vague. I was looking for the closest English idiom to match a Portuguese one. I explained what the Portuguese one means objectively. KJO suggested 'grasp all, lose all', which clearly has the same connotation as well as the same naturality in every day speech, and I accepted it. Other suggested idioms failed to include all the points and so are objectively not acceptable. The only thing really is 'how it will be used', and I've added that as an edit. Dec 31, 2018 at 17:09

5 Answers 5


Nearest equivalent is grasp all, lose all

which reflects Aesops “Much wants more and loses all.”

and a more modern version by Vikrant Parsai He who wants everything every time will lose everything any time.

Subsequently a search found others matching with Grasp all, lose all.
see http://updatedwordsforum.forumotion.com/t150-grasp-all-lose-all-quem-tudo-quer-tudo-perde

  • 1
    Also the higher you climb/go/fly, the harder/further/deeper you fall in much the same vein. Dec 26, 2018 at 22:18

Bite off more than you can chew. The Cambridge Dicionary says:

to try to do something that is too difficult for you:

[Example] I think he's bitten off more than he can chew taking all those classes. (Emphasis added.)

This is a very common idiom, and, it is understood that the results will be bad. However, the Portuguese idiom says that the results will be catastrophic (will lose everything), and the English idiom does not say or necessarily imply catastrophe. However, one possible outcome in the example above is that the student will flunk out or go on probation, which is nearly catastrophic.

Other uses might be, for example, starting a business at too ambitious a level:

She has bitten off more than she can chew, leasing so much space in this market. She'll go bankrupt.

Or, bringing in an example pertinent to the season:

You're going to fix a six course Christmas dinner for 30? All by yourself? You've bitten off more than you can chew!

One can imagine the chaos in the kitchen if the cook is not highly experienced!


"Wanting more and losing everything" is the moral of Aesop's "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" and seems to fit perfectly.

I'd also suggest...

"To kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs", an idiom used of an unprofitable action motivated by greed. It refers to one of Aesop's Fables, numbered 87 in the Perry Index, a story that also has a number of Eastern analogues. Many other stories contain geese that lay golden eggs though certain versions change them for hens that lay golden eggs.


"Those who have plenty want more and so lose all they have."

source Wikipedia


I keep thinking about "like Icarus flying too close to the Sun".

But it would likely not be used in casual conversation.

  • Welcome to EL&U! Please provide sources for your answer to aid the questioner. Dec 27, 2018 at 11:24

There's a great allusion for this from Greek Mythology.

Flying too close to the sun

There are many long/short explanations of this (its an interesting myth) - but this one i found from http://www.sps186.org/downloads/basic/278500/allusions sums it up concisely.

Icarus/Fly too Close to the Sun - In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father, Daedalus, escaped from the island of Crete, by means of wings constructed by Daedalus. The wings were held on by means of wax, and although Daedalus had warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, Icarus did not heed the warning; the wax melted, and he fell to his death in the Aegean Sea.

To be “an Icarus” or to “fly too close to the sun” is to fail or be destroyed because of lack of caution or excessive ambition.

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