Close but no Cigar (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Close but no Cigar"?

The term "close but no cigar" means to almost accomplish a goal then fall short.

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Close but no Cigar (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • He came close but no cigar in the race, finishing in second place.
  • She answered most of the questions correctly, but close but no cigar – she missed the final one.
  • The team put up a good fight, but in the end, it was close but no cigar as they fell short of victory.
  • He nearly reached his fundraising goal, but close but no cigar – he still needed a bit more to achieve it.
  • The puzzle was challenging, and he solved most of it, but close but no cigar – a few pieces were missing.
"Close but no cigar" originated in the US in the 1800s. Specifically, the term comes from US fairground stalls that, in those days, offered cigars and whiskey as prizes. The proprietor would shout "close, but no cigar!" if a customer performed well, but not quite well enough, in a game.

"Close, but no cigar" has only come into common use since the 1970s (evidence). From a grammatical perspective, it is a sentence fragment as it lacks both a subject and a verb.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.