break the bank


break the bank


  • to engage in a purchase or activity that exceeds one’s financial limitations or budgetary constraints.
  • to spend an excessive amount of money on something, significantly impacting one’s finances.
  • to undertake an endeavor that severely depletes resources or savings, causing substantial financial strain.
  • to win so much money from a gambling establishment that it exhausts their available funds for payouts.
  • to lose all available funds while gambling, rendering oneself financially incapacitated.

Example Sentences

  1. The new smartphone was so expensive it nearly broke the bank, but she couldn’t resist buying it.
  2. Planning a lavish wedding can easily break the bank if you’re not careful with expenses.
  3. Renovating the old house broke the bank, and now they have to dip into their emergency savings.
  4. After a few unlucky rounds at the poker table, he managed to break the bank and walk away penniless.
  5. The high roller’s lucky streak at the roulette wheel finally broke the bank, leaving the casino scrambling to cover his winnings.


The idiom “break the bank” has a rich financial origin shrouded in historical intrigue. Scholars trace its roots to the early 1600s, when gamblers won more money than the house could pay out, draining the establishment’s funds. However, some pinpoint its origins closer to 1873, when an Englishman named Joseph Jagger famously won $350,000—a staggering fortune at the time—at the Casino de Monte Carlo. This immense win was said to have “broken the bank,” severely testing the casino’s financial reserves.

In French, the term “faire sauter la banque,” literally “blown up the bank,” described a scenario where a gambler won more chips than the table held. When this occurred, a black cloth was draped over the table until reserve chips arrived, often delayed until the house recovered losses from other gamblers.

The phrase transcended its gambling roots, embedding itself in the English lexicon. It even inspired a popular television quiz show, “Break the Bank,” which captivated audiences through various iterations from the 1940s to the 2000s.

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