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no holds barred

Meaning: If something is done with no holds barred, it's done without restriction, rules or restraint.

For example:

  • The final game was played with no holds barred. It was very rough football and the referee had a hard time keeping control of things.

  • The election campaign turned into a no-holds-barred battle with each candidate trying to find information with which to damage their opponent's reputation.

Note: If this idiom is used before a noun, hyphens should be added, as in "a no-holds-barred contest".

Origin: From the sport of wrestling, in which certain dangerous holds are not usually allowed. But if wrestlers are in a no-holds-barred contest, there are no restrictions and they can use whatever holds they like.

Quick Quiz:

Our boss is a tough businessman, so it's no holds barred when he
  1. negotiates a deal
  2. withdraws money from the bank
  3. plays golf with customers

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