buy the farm

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

US slang, from the WWII era (first printed record in the US Air Force in the 1950's). Similar expressions like buy the plot and buy the lot also existed, although buy the farm is the only one to have survived. Probably related to older British slang buy it, buy one or buy the packet, both seemingly ironic references to something that one does not want to buy. May come from the common reflection that once someone had finished his service he would go home and buy a farm to settle on. Also, it may be in reference to the book Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Main characters George and Lennie always talk about owning their own farm where they will have to answer to no one and "live off the fatt'a the land." Later, when George must kill Lennie they talk about how they will buy the farm when George pulls the trigger and shoots Lennie to kill him painlessly.

Verb[edit]

buy the farm (third-person singular simple present buys the farm, present participle buying the farm, simple past and past participle bought the farm)

  1. (idiomatic, US, informal, euphemistic) To die; generally, to die in battle or in a plane crash.
    • 1959, Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers[1], page 131:
      You're just as dead if you buy the farm in an "incident" as if you buy it in a declared war.
    • 1984, G. Harry Stine, Manna[2], page 221:
      Then tracers laced the sky in front of me. Forget the shooting! If I get distracted now, I'll buy the farm anyway!
    • 1995, Steve Allen, “Having a Good Time”, in Ann McDonough & Kent R. Brown editor, A Grand Entrance[3], ISBN 087129933X, published 2000, page 212:
      BETTY. Shoot, if I knew you was gonna buy the farm I coulda asked for everything you got in the world... How were you gonna do it? ¶ROGER (takes revolver out of briefcase). With this.
    • 2002, W. Barry Baird, Vietnam Journey[4], ISBN 0595226795, page 171:
      They gambled with as much reckless abandon as they flew their airplanes. They knew they might buy the farm tomorrow.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This idiom is most often found in its past tense and past participle form bought the farm.

Translations[edit]

Synonyms[edit]

References[edit]