since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English
Idioms

no holds barred

This page is about the idiom 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

a. negotiates a deal

b. withdraws money from the bank

c. plays golf with customers

Idiom of the Day

Contributor: Matt Errey