break one’s back


break one’s back


  • get through the hardest part of something.
  • to put a lot of effort into doing something.
  • to return to a previous position or state, usually abruptly (breakback).

The meaning of “break someone’s back” simply states that a person is working very hard to accomplish something or to get something. Overtime, this idiom developed different meanings. During the 19th century it was used to explain how hard a person worked to achieve a goal or to accomplish a task. This phrase is also used to indicate how much effort a person is putting into something.

Today, the phrase is not commonly used like it was during the past. Sometimes people just use the phrase to explain how they are dealing with a difficult situation.

Examples in Sentences

  1. I’m tired and need an ice-cold drink. I broke my back at work today on that project.
  2. Man, they were trying to break our backs today on the docks. We had to lift all that heavy freight by hand.
  3. Lisa, I went above and beyond for that man. I broke my back trying to please him and make him happy.
  4. Trying to achieve a personal goal can be hard. I broke my back to get things done.
  5. He is very talented and should refuse to break your back working for him for a salary of $200 a week.


The phrase “break one’s back” has been in use for hundreds of years. It is an old English idiom that was commonly used during the 15th century. In those days, people would use the phrase to talk about the amount of hard labour or physical work they did for money, food, or other resources. The phrase was recorded in some Shakespearean writings, and it was also used by the commoners of the day who did hard work.

Many idioms and phrases that we use today simply evolved from the conditions in which they were created. This is more than likely how the phrase “break back” came into existence. The people back then had to do hard work in the fields, farming, hunting, building, and making war. So, the term was just used to describe the conditions these individuals were subject to in those days.

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