The Buck Stops Here – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone that you are the final line of accountability? This post unpacks everything you need to know about the meaning and origin of the phrase, “the buck stops here.”

Meaning

The expression, “the buck stops here,” means that this is the point of final responsibility and accountability held by a person or organization. For instance, the buck stops with the SEC for anything relating to insider trading for the stock market.

When you tell someone that “the buck stops here,” you’re telling them that you are accountable. You won’t “pass the buck” to someone else to avoid taking the blame for something.

Example Usage

“So, you thought you could get away with this forever? Well, I’ve been through the accounting, and the buck stops here. It’s all over for you now.”

“This administration is accountable for the actions of our military forces. As the sitting president, I take full accountability. The buck stops here, and I’m willing to take responsibility.”

The buck stops here, young man. You tell me right now what you did to cause Suzie to cry like that?”

“This is crazy. No one in the cabinet is willing to take responsibility for any of this. Well, the buck stops here, and I’m going to call an emergency session to get to the bottom of this.”

Origin

The origin of the saying, “the buck stops here,” comes from US President Harry S. Truman. The president had a sign sitting on his desk which read, “The buck stops here.” The president explained that he was the final stop in the line of accountability for the US government.

It was a way of avoiding “passing the buck” of responsibility. So, with this slogan, Truman held himself accountable for the governance of the United States. While Truman popularized the phrase, he does not claim its origin.

The origin of the saying goes back further to Colonel A. B. Warfield in 1931. During WWII, Colonel Warfield was the “Lathrop Holding and Reconsignment depot” commandant at Stockton, California. He had the same sign on his desk, and it would appear in a photo of his office in October 1942 in the Reno Evening Gazette.

Phrases Similar to The Buck Stops Here

  • Be all end all.

Phrases Opposite to The Buck Stops Here

  • Passing the buck.
  • No one is accountable.
  • No one wants to take responsibility.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The buck stops here.
  • The buck stops with me.

Ways People May Say The Buck Stops Here Incorrectly

The saying does not have any actual reference to money. The word “buck” is a reference to the dollar. However, its original use and popularization by Harry Truman expanded the meaning of the saying to include “responsibility” or “accountability” as the meaning of the word buck. Today, more people use it concerning accountability and responsibility than as a financial reference.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase The Buck Stops Here

You can use “the buck stops here” when you’re trying to tell someone that final accountability lies with you or them. The phrase suits professional and social use, and it’s a common saying in modern language. For instance, if you’re at the office, your manager could say that “the buck stops here” when they’re referring to financial accountability, leadership responsibilities, and more.

At home, “the buck stops here” would suit situations where you’re telling someone that you want them to stop their behavior, or you’re going to take action. It could also mean that you shoulder a burden on behalf of someone else’s actions.

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