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Origin of bust1
Words nearby bust
Definition for bust (2 of 2)
verb (used without object)
- to burst.
- to go bankrupt.
- to collapse from the strain of making a supreme effort: She was determined to make straight A's or bust.
- Draw Poker. to fail to make a flush or straight by one card.
- Blackjack. to draw cards exceeding the count of 21.
verb (used with object)
- to burst.
- to bankrupt; ruin financially.
- to place under arrest: The gang was busted and put away on narcotics charges.
- to subject to a police raid: The bar has been busted three times for selling drinks to minors.
- to hit.
- to break; fracture: She fell and busted her arm.
- an arrest.
- a police raid.
- a very weak hand.
- Bridge. a hand lacking the potential to take a single trick.
- to break up; separate: Sam and his wife busted up a year ago.
- to damage or destroy: Soldiers got in a fight and busted up the bar.
usage note for bust
WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH bustburst burst (see usage note at the current entry)
BEHIND THE PHRASE
What does or bust mean?
The phrase or bust is used when someone is pursuing an end no matter what, even if they fail trying. Saying New York City or bust, for example, means someone is doing absolutely everything to go there.
How is or bust pronounced?[ awr buhst ]
Where does or bust come from?
The phrase or bust may be associated with hitchhikers who’d write it on the signs they’d hold on the side of the highway while waiting for someone to offer them a ride (e.g., Vegas or bust), but the expression was apparently first popularized in the Colorado gold rush of the mid-1800s.
Following the discovery of gold in what is now Englewood, Colorado, people with little or nothing to lose began heading to an area of the state known as Pike’s Peak Country hoping to strike it rich. Around the 1850–60s, some of these dreamers began using the phrase Pike’s Peak or bust as they boarded up their homes and headed west through unforgiving weather and terrain—all for that sweet, sweet gold.
These gold-seekers didn’t invent the phrase, though. It’s recorded as early as the 1830s. Bust itself is a variant of burst, and or bust implies that one will violently break down or fall to pieces before giving up on their goal.
During the 2016 Democratic primaries, some die-hard supporters of the progressive Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders started an effort called Bernie or Bust. Some of these people pledged that they would not vote for Hillary Clinton if she won the Democratic nomination. Instead, they would write in Sanders, vote for a third-party candidate, or not vote.
How is or bust used in real life?
The phrase or bust follows the object of one’s ambition, such as a location or accomplishment (e.g., Austin or bust or 4.0 GPA or bust).
Or bust is often still used in the context of a trip, especially road trips. Nowadays it’s mostly used for enthusiasm and not meant to suggest that not arriving at the intended location is an actual possibility.
— Magnolia Girls Hoops (@MagnoliaGBB) November 15, 2018
The phrase is also often used outside the realm of travel, and is meant to suggest that there is only one option and way forward, that anything else is defeat or failure (e.g., Our team is going to the Super Bowl or bust).
More examples of or bust:
“It’s win or bust for both Donegal and Roscommon at The Hyde after their opening Super Eights defeats and Bonner was making sure he had his troops rallied ahead of the long trip home to the north-west.”
—Michael Scully, Irish Mirror, July 2018
Example sentences from the Web for bust
Nobody ever says they want to become a cop so they can bust people for urinating in public or drinking alcohol on their stoop.
And every day, we bust our asses to continue “making it,” but we most certainly have not “made it.”
In writing my debut novel, The Home Place, I had to bust some Western mythology to tell the truth.
Think of it as the Jersey Shore exception, where you can act like a brutish goon and the first bust is essentially a do-over.Ray Rice Should Have Remembered His 'Kindness' Anti-Bullying Wristband|Michael Daly|September 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Instead, Beck returned home and made a life-changing decision to bust out of the closet.
Variety 8:—Similar to the last, but back of bust is some distance from inner oval line.The Die Varieties of the Nesbitt Series of United States Envelopes|Victor M. Berthold
With that John begun to stare, and at last he bust out a larfin again.
Then I undertook the bust of my young sister Rgina, who had, alas!My Double Life|Sarah Bernhardt
Moreover, if he's so ugly as all that, you won't be so unhappy as you were last year when I was doing Mora's bust.The Nabob, Volume 1 (of 2)|Alphonse Daudet
But they say he was a bust anyway—just a morning-glory—and didn't know his luck.Winner Take All|Larry Evans
British Dictionary definitions for bust (1 of 2)
Word Origin for bust
British Dictionary definitions for bust (2 of 2)
verb busts, busting, busted or bust
Word Origin for bust
Idioms and Phrases with bust
In addition to the idioms beginning with bust
- bust a gut
- bust one's ass
- break (bust) one's ass
- go broke (bust)