“Close But No Cigar” Meaning, Origin and Helpful Examples

The term ‘close but no cigar’ is one that can be found often in English speech or written language. But what is the meaning of this common saying and where did it come from? Have you ever wondered how to use it in your every day conversations? We are going to explore the meaning of the phrase, it’s history and how we can use it.

Close But No Cigar

Close But No Cigar Meaning

The meaning of the term ‘close but no cigar’ refers to an item, person, or situation that comes very close to expectations but doesn’t quite match up to the ideal.

Origin of this idiom

This phrase originally came from the early 20th century when cigars were given out as prizes at carnivals and fairgrounds. If you got close to winning, you might get a smaller, less valuable prize but would not win the best prize of a cigar.

“Close But No Cigar” Examples

Example Sentences

You could use this saying in a whole variety of situations. A good example would be if you were to take your friend out for the evening to a lovely restaurant. Your friend might enjoy the meal but say something along the lines of

  • ‘My favourite restaurant is still much nicer than this one, close, but no cigar.’

You could also use it if you have asked someone to get something for your from a shop, for example you may have asked for a blue sweater but your friend returned with a blue T-shirt. You might then say

  • ‘It’s nice but I asked for a sweater, close, but no cigar.

You can use the term to describe anything that is good but doesn’t match up to the best preference in that situation.

Conversation Examples

Here are some examples of how you might hear the term ‘close, but no cigar’ in a conversation.

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “Dave took me on a lovely holiday last month.”
  • Person 2: “Was it as good as when you went to Bermuda?”
  • Person 1:Close, but no cigar.”

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “Rebecca has a new boyfriend but he is not as nice as her last one.”
  • Person 2: “Yes, I met him last week, he seems like a nice guy. Close, but no cigar.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

If you want to express the meaning of this idiomatic term using other words, there are many options. Here are a few examples.

  • Doesn’t quite cut the mustard
  • Not quite as good as
  • Pretty near
  • Not quite

Close But No Cigar Meaning | Picture

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