break one's back


Also, break one's neck. Make a great effort, work very hard. For example, I've been breaking my back over this problem for the past week, or Don't break your neck to get there; we'll wait for you. Both versions of this expression, polite equivalents of break one's ass, transfer the literal fracture of one's back or neck to figurative exertion. However, break one's neck has the secondary connotation of proceeding with reckless speed, a sense also conveyed by the term breakneck pace. Originally this idiom alluded to literally breaking one's neck by rushing heedlessly along, but it has been used figuratively for the past 300 years. Also see break the back of.

QUIZZES

THE OCTOBER WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ IS HERE TO HAUNT YOU

Search your capacious memory for the meaning of October’s words!
Question 1 of 9
Which Word of the Day from this month means, “an irrational dislike; loathing”?
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.