Last modified on 2 June 2014, at 14:45

wits' end

EnglishEdit

Alternative formsEdit

EtymologyEdit

wits' + end

NounEdit

wits' end (plural wits' ends)

  1. (chiefly UK) Limit of one's sanity or mental capacity; point of desperation.
    • 1699, Edward Taylor, in The Poems of Edward Taylor (1989 edition), page 136:
      The Seamen they
      Bestir their stumps, and at wits end do weep.
      Wake, Jonas, who saith
      Heave me over deck.
    • 1868, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, ch. 22:
      He was so eloquent in drawing the picture of his own neglected merits, and so pathetic in lamenting over it when it was done, that I felt quite at my wits' end how to console him.
    • 1906, Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Chapter 18
      The frightened women were at their wits' end.
    • c. 1911, John Muir, in John Muir and Michael P. Branch, John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (2002 edition), page 138:
      Our dozen cabin passengers sorely put to wits' end to pass yesterday without cards in observance of the Sabbath.
    • 2010 Dec. 10, Leo Cendrowicz, "Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program Produce ... More Talks," Time:
      Yet years of talks, threats and sanctions have failed to halt the program, and officials are at their wits' end on how to wean Iran off its nuclear habit.

TranslationsEdit

Usage notesEdit

  • The form wits' end is preferred nearly 3 to 1 in the UK (BNC).
  • The form wit's end is preferred more than 2 to 1 in the US (COCA).

See alsoEdit