Understanding the Idiom: "put someone out of their misery" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
  • euthanise (UK) / euthanize (US)

When faced with a difficult situation, people often turn to idioms to express themselves. One such idiom is “put someone out of their misery”, which is commonly used in English-speaking countries. This phrase can be interpreted in different ways depending on the context, but it generally refers to ending someone’s suffering or discomfort.

The idiom has a figurative meaning that goes beyond its literal interpretation. It can be used to describe situations where someone is struggling with a problem or facing an uncomfortable situation, and they need help to overcome it. In some cases, the phrase may refer to euthanasia or mercy killing, where a person who is terminally ill is allowed to die peacefully.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “put someone out of their misery”

The English language is full of idioms that have been passed down through generations. These expressions are often used to convey a message or meaning that might not be immediately clear from the words themselves. One such idiom is “put someone out of their misery.” This phrase is commonly used to describe an act of mercy, where someone is relieved from suffering or pain.

The origins of this idiom can be traced back to ancient times when people believed in the power of death as a release from suffering. In many cultures, it was considered an act of kindness to help someone who was terminally ill or severely injured to die peacefully and without further pain. This idea has carried over into modern times, where euthanasia and assisted suicide are still controversial topics.

In the 19th century, the phrase “put out of one’s misery” began appearing in literature as a way to describe mercy killings. It was often used in stories about soldiers who were mortally wounded on the battlefield and begged their comrades for a quick death rather than enduring prolonged agony. The phrase gained popularity during World War I when soldiers faced horrific injuries that left them in excruciating pain.

Today, “putting someone out of their misery” is generally used figuratively rather than literally. It can refer to any situation where someone is experiencing extreme discomfort or distress and needs relief. For example, if you have been waiting for hours at the DMV and finally get called up to the counter, you might say that being served put you out of your misery.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “put someone out of their misery”

The idiom “put someone out of their misery” is a commonly used expression in English that refers to ending someone’s suffering or discomfort. This phrase can be used in a variety of situations where one person wants to alleviate another person’s pain, whether it be physical or emotional.


While the basic meaning behind this idiom remains the same, there are several variations that can be used depending on the context:

Variation Meaning
Put something out of its misery To end an animal’s life humanely when it is suffering greatly.
Pull the plug To stop life support for a terminally ill patient who has no chance of recovery.
Cut to the chase To get straight to the point without wasting time or beating around the bush.


This idiom is often used in informal conversations among friends and family members. For example, if someone is telling you about a friend who has been struggling with a chronic illness for years, you might say “I wish they could just put them out of their misery.” It can also be used in more serious contexts such as discussing end-of-life care for a loved one.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “put someone out of their misery”


– End someone’s suffering

– Relieve someone’s pain

– Spare someone agony

– Ease someone’s burden


– Prolong one’s agony

– Allow one to suffer needlessly

– Refuse mercy or compassion

In some cultures, euthanasia or assisted suicide is a controversial topic that relates closely to the concept behind this idiom. While in some countries it may be legal under certain circumstances, in others it remains illegal and morally taboo.

Additionally, different languages may have unique expressions that convey a similar meaning. For example, in Spanish there is an expression “sacar de su sufrimiento” which translates to “take them out of their suffering.”

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “put someone out of their misery”

In order to fully grasp and utilize the idiom “put someone out of their misery”, it is important to practice using it in various contexts. Below are some practical exercises that can help you become more comfortable with this expression.

Exercise 1: Conversation Practice

Find a partner and engage in a conversation where you use the idiom “put someone out of their misery” appropriately. Try to make the conversation as natural as possible, while also incorporating the idiom into your dialogue.

Exercise 2: Writing Exercise

Example: The old dog was suffering from a painful illness and could barely move. The vet suggested putting him out of his misery, but it was a difficult decision for his owner who had grown attached to him over the years.

By practicing these exercises, you will become more confident in using the idiom “put someone out of their misery” correctly and effectively in both spoken and written communication.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “End Someone’s Suffering”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and usage in context. The idiom “end someone’s suffering” or “put someone out of their misery” is often used to describe an act of mercy killing or euthanasia. However, it is crucial to avoid certain common mistakes when using this idiom.

One mistake that people make when using this idiom is assuming that it only refers to physical suffering. In reality, the phrase can also be used in situations where a person is experiencing emotional pain or distress. It is important to consider the context and use the phrase appropriately.

Another mistake that people make when using this idiom is failing to recognize its potentially negative connotations. While some may view mercy killing as a compassionate act, others may see it as morally questionable or even illegal. It is important to be aware of these differing perspectives and use the phrase with sensitivity.

Finally, it is essential to avoid using this idiom in inappropriate contexts or making light of serious issues such as euthanasia or suicide. This can come across as insensitive and disrespectful.

Common Mistakes Correct Usage
Assuming only physical suffering Consider emotional pain too
Ignoring negative connotations Be aware of differing perspectives
Misusing in inappropriate contexts Use with sensitivity and respect


Incorrect: I can’t stand this movie anymore, please end my suffering!

Correct: My grandfather is in so much pain, we had to make the difficult decision to end his suffering.

Incorrect: That test was so hard, I just want to put myself out of my misery.

Correct: Suicide is a serious issue that should never be taken lightly. Let’s find ways to support those who are struggling instead.

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