No Quarter Given – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone not to have any mercy? The idiom "no quarter given" may fit the bill. Discover what this interesting phrase means, where it came from, and how to use it in this post.


The now somewhat archaic idiom "no quarter given" may also be expressed as "grant no quarter", or even simply as "no quarter".

In general use, the idiom means that no mercy, leniency, or pity is offered. It is generally synonymous with "show no mercy".

This idiom has military origins, and traditionally, "no quarter given" meant that a captured enemy combatant was killed rather than taken prisoner.

​​Example Usage

Are you still unsure how the idiom "no quarter given" (or "grant no quarter") can be used in action? Take a look at these example sentences, which illustrate the use of the phrase:

  • "Granny chased the youths who smashed her window with a brick down the street, dragged them back to her home, and called their parents, insisting they pay for the damage. She granted them no quarter."
  • "Remember, the opposing team will do their best to win. I expect the same from you! Grant them no quarter!"
  • "No quarter was given to the captured enemy soldiers, who were promptly executed."


The idiom "no quarter given" (or "no quarter granted") has been in use since at least the sixteenth century.

It was originally a military term that referred to the practice of killing enemy combatants rather than taking them prisoner.

The meaning of the word "quarter" in this context is not entirely clear, and there are two distinct possibilities:

  • "Quarter" likely refers to "barracks", "housing", or "quarters". Thus, "granting quarter" meant to house prisoners. Granting no quarter, on the other hand, would indicate that the enemy would be put to death and therefore did not require living space.
  • "Quarter" may also refer to any kind of relationship. Shakespeare used the word in this way on occasion.

The meaning of the phrase "no quarter given" remains the same regardless of the "quarter" to which the idiom might initially have referred.

Over time, the idiom took on a different meaning — to "show no mercy" or to "treat someone harshly or sternly".

Although the idiom "no quarter given" is no longer very common, it is still in use, and can occasionally be spotted in news articles and other media.

Phrases Similar to No Quarter Given

Phrases with similar meanings as the idiom "no quarter given" include:

  • Take no prisoners — meaning to be merciless, ruthless, or aggressive in your approach, this idiom has a very similar origin.
  • Show no mercy.
  • Go get 'em (tiger) — Just like "no quarter given" can be used to encourage aggressive competition, this phrase is used to instill confidence before a competitive activity, like a sports match.

Phrases Opposite to No Quarter Given

  • If you would like to tell someone to be nice, you could use the idiom "do unto others as you would have them do unto you — a phrase that essentially calls for kindness and mercy.

​What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is "no quarter given", "grant no quarter", or simply "no quarter". The idiom initially referred to killing rather than imprisoning enemy soldiers on capture, but now means "show no mercy".

​​Ways People May Say No Quarter Given Incorrectly

People who hear the idiom "no quarter given" for the first time may incorrectly assume that the "quarter" in question refers to money. If they are aware that the phrase means to show no mercy, they may conclude that it warns against giving money to beggars or charitable organizations.

​​Acceptable Ways to Phrase No Quarter Given

You can use the phrase "no quarter given" to show that mercy (or leniency, or pity) wasn't, or shouldn't, be shown in a particular situation. The idiom is often used in competitive contexts, such as those relating to sport.

You can say that someone wasn't given quarter, or that someone didn't grant quarter.


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