wits' end

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

wits' + end

Noun[edit]

wits' end (plural wits' ends)

  1. (chiefly UK) Limit of one's sanity or mental capacity; point of desperation.
    • 1699, Edward Taylor, in The Poems of Edward Taylor (1989 edition), page 136:
      The Seamen they
      Bestir their stumps, and at wits end do weep.
      Wake, Jonas, who saith
      Heave me over deck.
    • 1868, Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone, ch. 22:
      He was so eloquent in drawing the picture of his own neglected merits, and so pathetic in lamenting over it when it was done, that I felt quite at my wits' end how to console him.
    • 1906, Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, Chapter 18
      The frightened women were at their wits' end.
    • c. 1911, John Muir, in John Muir and Michael P. Branch, John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa (2002 edition), page 138:
      Our dozen cabin passengers sorely put to wits' end to pass yesterday without cards in observance of the Sabbath.
    • 2010 Dec. 10, Leo Cendrowicz, "Talks on Iran's Nuclear Program Produce ... More Talks," Time:
      Yet years of talks, threats and sanctions have failed to halt the program, and officials are at their wits' end on how to wean Iran off its nuclear habit.

Translations[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

  • The form wits' end is preferred nearly 3 to 1 in the UK (BNC).
  • The form wit's end is preferred more than 2 to 1 in the US (COCA).

See also[edit]