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1. In economics, a yield rate (i.e., of profits, production, benefits, etc.) that fails to grow in proportion to the amount of investment, skill, time, or effort that is added. The restaurant, to combat high volumes of customers, hired a large surplus of wait staff and cooks. This led to diminishing returns, however, as the overcrowded staff was far less efficient and eventually cost the restaurant more in wages than it was earning.
2. By extension, any output or results (e.g., of a product, project, organization, etc.) that fail to increase proportionally to additional time, money, skill, or effort. Unfortunately, the show's charm has not lasted, and the infusion of zanier plots has created diminishing returns in terms of quality.
many happy returns of the day
I wish you a very happy birthday and many more like it in the future. Hey Jack, many happy returns of the day! Are you going to do anything special to celebrate the occasion?
return to form
1. noun A restoration to a previously established standard of excellence or brilliance. This latest film marks a welcome return to form for the beloved filmmaker, whose more recent films have fallen well below the expectations of critics and fans alike.
2. verb To return to a previously established standard or state of excellence or brilliance. The president definitely returned to form in the debate last night, much to the joy (and relief) of her supporters.
return to (one's) muttons
antiquated To return to a given topic or subject that one is discussing, explaining, ruminating over, talking about, etc. Taken from a humorous translation of the French idiom "revenons à nos moutons" (literally, "let us return to our sheep," which has the same meaning), which itself came from the medieval play La Farce de Maître Pathelin. The constable, frustrated with the drunkard's rambling explanation, bade him return to his muttons. But I have strayed off course from the lecture, so let us return to our muttons before we run out of time.
as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly
Foolish people are apt to repeat their missteps. A: "I can't believe Sarah is going skiing again, after she broke her leg the last time." B: "Well, as a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."
by return mail and by return post
by a subsequent mailing (back to the sender). (A phrase indicating that an answer is expected very soon, by mail.) Since this bill is overdue, would you kindly send us your check by return mail? I answered your request by return post over a year ago. Please check your records.
come back to haunt oneand return to haunt one
Fig. [for a bad memory] to recur; for the consequences of a bad decision to affect one negatively later. I never dreamed that a little thing like a traffic ticket could come back to haunt me years later.
in return for (someone or something)
by way of giving something back; as a way of paying someone back for something; as part of an exchange. I helped Tom yesterday, and he helped me in return for my efforts. I paid $20 and received four tickets in return.
point of no return
the halfway point; the point at which it is too late to turn back. (Often with past.) The flight was past the point of no return, so we had to continue to our destination. The entire project is past the point of no return; we will have to continue with it.
some place to come back from some place. I just returned from a research trip in the Amazon basin. When will they return from their vacation?
return someone or something to someone
to give someone or something back to someone. Please return my tools to me. Would you return my book to me soon?
return something for something
to give or payback something for something. The clerk returned the correct change for a twenty-dollar bill. I hope that the product returns good value for my money.
return the complimentand return someone's compliment
to pay a compliment to someone who has paid you a compliment. Mary told me that my hair looked nice, so I returned her compliment and told her that her hair was lovely. When someone says something nice, it is polite to return the compliment.
return the favor
to do a good deed for someone who has done a good deed for you. You helped me last week, so I'll return the favor and help you this week. There is no point in helping Bill He'll never return the favor.
return to haunt
one Go to come back to haunt one.
return to some place
to go or come back to some place. When do you plan to return to your home? I will return there when I have finished here.
return with something
to come back with something. He went to town and returned with the doctor just in time. She returned with the material they had requested.
return the compliment
1. to do something for someone because they have done something for you Our neighbors looked after the house while we were away, and we'll return the compliment when they go on vacation.
2. to do or say something unfriendly to someone because they have made you angry The batter was thrown out of the game, so he returned the compliment by calling the umpire a fool.Related vocabulary: return the favor
return the favor
to do something similar to someone who has behaved badly to you The other team's fans are nasty to us, and our fans can't wait to return the favor.Related vocabulary: return the compliment
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of return the favor (to do something similar for someone who has done something good for you)
in return (for something)
in exchange for something As a teenager, he worked at a nearby golf course in return for lessons.
the point of no return
the time in an activity when you cannot stop doing it but must continue to the end And although I was bored, I'd already spent so much time doing the research for the novel that I felt I'd reached the point of no return.See miss the point
return the compliment
to do something for someone because they have done something for you Thanks for looking after the house while we were away. I hope I'll be able to return the compliment some time.
Also, in return for. In repayment or reciprocation for something, as in I did her many favors and got nothing in return, or In return for your patience, I promise to do a really good job. [c. 1600]
many happy returns
Also, many happy returns of the day. Happy birthday and many more of them, as in I came by to wish you many happy returns. This expression was first recorded in a letter of 1779 where the writer meant "Happy New Year," but the present meaning has persisted since the second half of the 1800s.
point of no return
The place in a course of action beyond which reversal is not possible. For example, Once the contract is signed, we've reached the point of no return. This expression comes from aviation, where it signifies the point where an aircraft does not have enough fuel to return to the starting point. [c. 1940]
return the compliment
Also, return the favor. Repay someone in kind, as in Her political opponent came out with a smear campaign, and she returned the compliment. Neither the compliment nor the favor in this idiom is necessarily desirable. [First half of 1700s]
return to the fold
Come back to a group after an absence, as in Matthew taught for a number of years, but now he's returned to the fold as vice-president of the firm . This term employs fold in the sense of "an enclosure for sheep," which has been used figuratively since the first half of the 1300s.
In repayment or reciprocation.