close, but no cigar

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Apparently from the practice of giving cigars as prizes at carnivals in the United States in the 20th century; those who did not win would fail to receive a cigar, even if they came close.[1]



close, but no cigar

  1. (idiomatic, originally US, colloquial) Used to indicate that one is almost correct or has almost succeeded, but not quite. [from early 20th c.]
    Synonyms: almost doesn't count, a miss is as good as a mile
    Betty ran all out in the sprint race; yet, it was close, but no cigar.
    • 1929 July 2, J. C. R., “’28’s First”, in Asa S[mith] Bushnell [III], editor, Princeton Alumni Weekly, volume XXIX, number 36, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 1166, column 2:
      The long distance trophy [for alumni who had traveled the furthest to attend the reunion], an appropriately inscribed silver cigarette case, was awarded to Em Gooch who had made the trip from Lincoln, Neb. for the occasion. Several other members came close, but no cigar, and we trust that all those in New York and Philadelphia who failed to show up, without reason, will read these lines with a quiver.

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  1. ^ Gary Martin (1997–) “Close, but no cigar”, in The Phrase Finder.

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