Be-All and End-All: Quick Facts About this Phrase

  • The phrase end all be all was first coined by Shakespeare in his famed play, Macbeth.
  • There are several spellings of the phrase, and they are all correct.
  • The right way to use the phrase is when emphasizing something that’s all-important, something valuable that surpasses all else.

It is a noun and can be used to emphasize anything that’s considered an essential element—a person, object, or state.


People use idiomatic expressions, or idioms, to add character and dynamism to otherwise stale conversations and writing. Instead of saying that there was a torrential downpour last night, people may use that it was raining cats and dogs.

Another example is rooting for the underdog. This phrase means that people are on the side of the person (or team, if you’re talking about sports) who is likely to lose. An underdog is a predicted loser in a contest or struggle.

Today, we’re going to talk about a new phrase. This is end all be all.

What Does End All Be All Mean?

An end all be all is your ultimate goal, such as winning the trophy or first place in a competition. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The meaning of end all be all is something of utmost importance, such as an ultimate goal. This could be a thing or a person that is absolutely crucial and seen as best. People sometimes use hyphens to separate the words.

When someone considers you as their “end all be all,” be flattered. This means that you’re vital and wonderful in that person’s eyes that it almost always ends their search for anything better or greater. They’re practically convinced that you’re the best and no one can top you.

Sometimes, people use the phrase “end all be all” disparagingly to refer to an event or an individual that is not important. When they add sarcasm to this phrase, the speaker obviously means the exact opposite.

The Origin of End All Be All

The idiom “end all be all” may have originated from “Macbeth.” Source: Pinterest

Just like other common idioms, this expression seems to have originated from William Shakespeare, a famous playwright, around 1605. A variation of End All Be All shows up in “Macbeth.”

This play tells the story of Macbeth, a Scottish general who assassinates King Duncan and claims the throne for himself after getting a prophecy that he’ll become King of Scotland one day. The events, unfortunately, don’t go well after this. This is a tragedy, as Macbeth turns into a tyrannical ruler and commits even more murders.

When Macbeth is thinking about murdering King Duncan, he said this:

“…this blow might be the be-all and the end-all here…”

Macbeth looks at the assassination of King Duncan as the end all be all, giving the former the goal he wants so desperately: to snatch the crown. He believes that murder the only option. The assassination will be the final word on the subject of Macbeth being king, It, therefore, is his ultimate goal.

If you’re familiar with the whole story of Macbeth, however, you’ll realize that the murder of King Duncan to get and keep the throne doesn’t turn out to be the end all be all. The titular character will be doing a lot more killings in the future, which causes a civil war.

Is It End All Be All or Be All End All?

When talking about the word order for end all be all, you can write this idiomatic expression in many different ways. You have the option to flip the order of the words and even use the word “and” to join the words together. You’ll find the expression written without and with hyphens.

Here are some of the correct forms of the phrase end all be all:

  • Be All End All
  • End-All and Be-All
  • End All and Be All
  • Be All and End All

Usually, the word “the” precedes the phrase and often “not the.” You can even pluralize the forms above with an addition of an “s” after each “all.” An example is “Be Alls and End Alls,” which refers to ultimate goals.

How Do You Use End All Be All?

Remember that end all be all refers to the most important thing or person, or something really good or important.

Take a look at these examples to see this idiomatic expression in action:

  • Fancy MacBook Airs are the end all and be all for my children, but I can’t afford to obtain these gadgets.
  • I love getting the opportunity to say a wonderful good night to my kids as I tuck them in bed. I consider this the be-all and end-all of my life.
  • My younger sister thought of becoming a cheerleader was the end all be all, but she hates how snobby the girls are on the cheerleading squad.
  • Winning the World Series trophy is the be all end all for a lot of baseball players.

From a grammatical point of view, end all be all is a noun. Here is another example that can show you how you can use end all be all when talking about a thing:

Tyler, the talk your girlfriend wants to have tonight is the end all be all of the relationship. You should meet her on time!”  

As you can tell, the notion of having a conversation is the all-important element in the sentence. The person speaking is convincing the other person that the impending conversation is the uttermost important thing bound to happen.

Whenever a thing or a person regarded as extremely valuable and important needs to be emphasized, authors would use any of the spellings of the end all be all phrase. But if we’re going for the proper spelling, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a non-hyphenated spelling.

More Examples & the Phrase That Started It All

Moving on to another example, you could use end all be all to stress the significance of a person

She’s his end all be all, he’s absolutely fascinated by her!” 

In this scenario, a person is the focal point in the sentence, depicted as the most important person to another person. 

When using the phrase, remember that it’s not only a person or a thing considered an all-important element. Anything essential—be it a person, an institution, or even a state—can be referred to as the end all be all. For example:


Affordable prices are the end all be all for grocery store owners.” As you can see, the affordable prices of goods are the most important aspect for store owners.


As we already mentioned, the expression was first contemplated by the great Shakespeare in his play Macbeth back in 1605. Here is the full verse of the play:

“If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well / It were done quickly. If th’ assassination / Could trammel up the consequence, and catch / With his surcease, success: that but this blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all.”


Other Words for End All Be All

If you prefer to use different, you could substitute end all be all with a different synonym. Here are a few examples:

  • If you want to be a great doctor, you’ll need to get straight As. This will be the most important thing for you.
  • When whipping up this particular dish, saffron is the crucial ingredient when talking about flavor.
  • You shouldn’t forget to attend this exam. This is your ultimate goal if you want to go further in your career.

Incorporating “End All Be All” in Daily Conversations

As we mentioned, the idiom end all be all conveys the importance of things/people/notions, etc. In other words, you can incorporate the phrase whenever you want to emphasize how much a person means to you, how significant a hobby is to you, or how irreplaceably important something is.


Many people use this idiom day-to-day to pinpoint the best part of something. For example, you could say mixing strawberries with lemon in your smoothie might be the end all be all for the taste. In this context, it means that adding the lemon is it for you. 


Some use it daily to state that something is coming to a head, meaning it needs prompt decisions and actions to move things along. Also, it isn’t uncommon for people to use the phrase as a hyperbole to exaggerate a statement or an outcome. If you do notice this use of the phrase, it usually means an emergency. 

However, to know how to properly use the idiom in a sentence, you also need to know how to properly write and spell it.

Spelling the Phrase: Is There a Right and Wrong Way?

Given the fact that language is constantly evolving, spellings have changed, too. For one, the word order in a phrase can be flipped, joined with, and hyphenated or not.


For this particular phrase, you might have seen the following spellings:


  • Be all end all
  • End all and be all
  • Be all and end all
  • End-all and be-all
  • Be-all and end-all
  • End all be all


Here are more examples so you get the gist:


  • Jada’s boyfriend is her be-all and end-all. She’s always bragging about him, and we don’t really hang out anymore.
  • Marudo Jenkins said winning the World Series ring is his end-all and be-all.”
  • I was so stressed about yesterday’s science test until my mom reminded me it isn’t the be all and end all of my high school education.”
  • Don’t worry about the flower arrangements, I got that! Make sure the wedding dress is just like you wanted it. – You’re right! It’s the end all and be all for me.”
  • Listen up, students, the upcoming play is the be all end all of your drama club experience. Make sure you know the lines to the T!


Be all end all, end all be all, and any of the other variations, hyphenated or not, are safe to use.

Common Mistakes and Pitfalls to Avoid

One of the major misuses of the end all be all phrase is using it to depict the end of something. For instance, if you’re writing a short story, avoid using the phrase to show something is coming to an end.


Another of the most common misconceptions about the phrase is that it is limited to persons only, which is not the case. We’ve already mentioned it—end all be all can be used to emphasize an object or a person regarded as an all-important element, a summit, a zenith, or anything else.


To make sure you use end all be all properly, avoid contextualizing it as an opposition, meaning this or that. A lot of people have a hard time placing the phrase in the correct word order or spelling, much as the phrase good night or goodnight—a largely used phrase that’s acceptable in both spelling, delivering different meanings.

Learning From Examples and Contextual Usage

Learning from examples is the best way to understand the meaning and use of a phrase, a definition, and so on. For this particular case, we’ve given you some at the start of this article and placed a few throughout the text. 


But to make sure you really remember the correct usage, here is a dialogue example between a couple discussing their priorities:


Jackson: Move along, Maddie, we’ll be late again! 


Maddie: Stop pouting and shouting, babe, being fashionably late to parties is totally OK.


Jackson: C’mon, Maddie, we aren’t movie stars, no one is waiting for us to get the party started. I’ll be in the car.


Maddie: Could you just give me a minute?! Jeez! It’s always chop-chop with you! It’s just Ella and Ray’s housewarming party!


Jackon: So what? We shouldn’t be there on time ‘cause it’s not a fancy party’? It’s important to me that we’re there in time and not show up last like we did at my brother’s birthday last year.


Maddie: Oh, give it a rest, babe, I’ll be ready in a minute. I can see it’s an end all be all for you.  


Jackon: It is, babe, being there on time matters for me. I thought you figured it out by now.  


Now, you probably have a better understanding of the end all be all phrase. Remember, whenever you want to stress the importance of a thing, a person, a notion, or an outcome, you can use this particular Shakespearean idiom.


What is a synonym for end all be all?

All or nothing, be all end all, do or die, the most important, the utmost important, and most significant are some of the synonyms you can use instead of end all be all to convey the same meaning.

Is end all be all a cliche?

Even though this type of phrase is rarely used in everyday speech, some philologists and language experts have deemed the phrase a cliché. 

Is the saying end all be all or be all end all?

Although many variations are acceptable, ultimately, the original version is end all, be all; it’s the largest commonly accepted variation of the phrase.


The phrase end all be all has many variations. Regardless of the form you use, remember that the definition remains the same.

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