burn (one's) bridges

(redirected from burning his bridges)

burn (one's) bridges

1. Literally, to destroy a bridge or path behind oneself, so that others cannot follow. This usage is often related to military action. When the troops retreated from the area, they were sure to burn their bridges behind them.
2. To do something that cannot be easily undone or reversed in the future (often because one has behaved offensively or unfavorably). I think you really burned your bridges when you announced you were quitting and proceeded to insult your boss in front of the whole staff. She's young, so I don't think she realizes that she'll be burning her bridges if she goes to work for their competitor.
See also: bridge, burn

burn one's bridges

 (behind one)
1. Lit. to cutoff the way back to where you came from, making it impossible to retreat. The army, which had burned its bridges behind it, couldn't go back. By blowing up the road, the spies had burned their bridges behind them.
2. Fig. to act unpleasantly in a situation that you are leaving, ensuring that you'll never be welcome to return. If you get mad and quit your job, you'll be burning your bridges behind you. No sense burning your bridges. Be polite and leave quietly.
3. Fig. to make decisions that cannot be changed in the future. If you drop out of school now, you'll be burning your bridges behind you. You're too young to burn your bridges that way.
See also: bridge, burn

burn one's bridges

Also, burn one's boats. Commit oneself to an irreversible course. For example, Denouncing one's boss in a written resignation means one has burned one's bridges, or Turning down one job before you have another amounts to burning your boats. Both versions of this idiom allude to ancient military tactics, when troops would cross a body of water and then burn the bridge or boats they had used both to prevent retreat and to foil a pursuing enemy. [Late 1800s] Also see cross the rubicon.
See also: bridge, burn

burn your bridges

If you burn your bridges, you do something which forces you to continue with a particular course of action, and makes it impossible for you to return to an earlier situation. I didn't sell my house because I didn't know how long I would be here. I didn't want to burn all my bridges. She had burned her bridges behind her; she had called Mimi to tell her she couldn't take the job at the Foundation and she had accepted another job offer. Note: In British English, you can also say that you burn your boats. She decided to go to Glasgow to study for a degree in astronomy. Then, just before she started, she thought she might be burning her boats and so she did physics after all. Note: During invasions, Roman generals sometimes burned their boats or any bridges they had crossed, so that their soldiers could not retreat but were forced to fight on.
See also: bridge, burn

burn (one's) bridges

To eliminate the possibility of return or retreat.
See also: bridge, burn