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

burn one's bridges/boats, to

To commit oneself to an irreversible course of action, without possibility of backing down. The expression comes from ancient military history, when soldiers crossing a river literally burned the bridge or boats they had used in order to cut off the possibility of retreat. A cliché by the nineteenth century, the expression has invited a number of humorous twists, such as “Never burn your bridges till you come to them” (Stanley Walker, 1941). See also cross the Rubicon.
See also: bridge, burn
References in periodicals archive ?
And don't burn bridges. "Consider maintaining a relationship with people you value," advises Goleman, "because you may need to hire them back in the future."
"I didn't want to burn bridges, which is what happened."
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." Your old company will remember your exit behavior, and it will tint its impression of the job you did while you were there.
As the saying goes: Don't burn bridges. You never know who else would need one.
* Don't burn bridges. When you or your business is threatened, your first reaction may be an emotional one.
While Silva has already bad-mouthed the organization, White cleared that the UFC is not stooping down to the level and will not burn bridges.