line in the sand

line in the sand


  • a boundary beyond which one cannot proceed without consequences
  • a set limit which has to be adhered to strictly by someone

Example Sentences

  1. His resolve to either get a paid internship or drop out of school was his line in the sand.
  2. She drew a line in the sand when she asked David to choose between her and his job.
  3. The teacher drew a line in the sand by demanding the students get 50% in the exams or risk resitting the exams next year.
  4. Tired of the athlete’s antics, the coach drew a line in the sand and asked that either the athlete showed up for all the practices or be kicked off the team.


This phrase goes back to the Roman Empire when a Macedonian king decided to invade Egypt as he was short of cash. Egypt was a roman protectorate then and at the border, he was met by Popillius Laenas who was a roman senator. Popillius drew a circle around the king and demanded that the king retreat before he can step out of the circle. The king withdrew and so the phrase came to be used to refer to setting boundaries.

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