make or break

Idioms & Phrases

make or break

Cause either total success or total ruin, as in This assignment will make or break her as a reporter. This rhyming expression, first recorded in Charles Dickens's Barnaby Rudge (1840), has largely replaced the much older (16th-century) alliterative synonym make or mar, at least in America.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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