burn bridges

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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

To eliminate the possibility of return or retreat.
See also: bridge, burn
References in periodicals archive ?
The West is clearly at pains not to openly burn bridges with Moscow despite widespread criticism of the regime's authoritarian drift.
The Ibrox boss said: "I'll never burn bridges or cut off my nose just to spite my face.
You don't burn bridges with the players - it's the fans,' admitted Bull.
Solid external relationships are also vital - never burn bridges whether it is with clients, competitors or suppliers.
The editor of Anti-Gay, a book that caused a firestorm of controversy in the United Kingdom when it was published in 1996, Simpson has the distinction of being both hated and respected (in Queen he jokingly worries that the book, meant to burn bridges, instead ignited a new brand of gay lifestyle).
By burning bridges with the press, they burn bridges with the fans.
Never burn bridges if you want to be remembered as "dearly departed.