run into a brick wall: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘run into a brick wall’ mean?

The idiom "run into a brick wall" means to encounter an obstacle or difficulty that is impossible to overcome or make progress with.

Idiom Explorer

Brick Wall Dilemma

Idioms can be fascinating expressions that go beyond their literal meanings and add depth to our conversations. One such idiom is "run into a brick wall." This phrase captures the experience of facing an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. It paints a vivid picture of running into a solid barrier, symbolizing the challenges and setbacks that can hinder our progress and success.

The origins of this idiom are not entirely clear, but it has been in use since the early 20th century. Its powerful imagery resonates with people who are grappling with adversity in their lives. It has become a well-established expression in American English, reflecting the cultural understanding of encountering obstacles.

The meaning behind "run into a brick wall" highlights the importance of perseverance and resilience when faced with adversity. It suggests that when we encounter a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, we need to consider alternative strategies or approaches to move forward. Rather than seeing it as a sign of failure, this idiom reminds us that challenges and setbacks are a natural part of life, and it is through determination and creativity that we can overcome them.

This idiom also conveys a sense of frustration and helplessness. Running into a brick wall implies hitting a roadblock where no progress can be made. It leaves us feeling defeated and at an impasse. However, it also suggests the possibility of finding unexpected solutions or restructuring our circumstances to overcome the obstacle.

The roadblock of a brick wall caused frustration.

When used in everyday conversations, "run into a brick wall" becomes a powerful metaphor for the challenges and barriers we encounter in different aspects of life. Whether it's in personal relationships, work, or creative endeavors, this idiom captures the universal experience of navigating difficult situations. It resonates with people because it reflects the complexities of life and provides a shared understanding of the obstacles we all face.

Another related idiom is "bang one's head against a brick wall." This phrase adds an extra layer to the concept of running into a brick wall. It suggests that when we face an obstacle, we are persistently trying to overcome it, but with little success. Bang one's head against a brick wall implies the frustration of repeatedly attempting to break through the barrier without making any progress. It emphasizes the need for a change in approach or a shift in mindset to find a way forward.

Similarly, the idiom "talk to a brick wall" builds on the theme of encountering obstacles. It describes a scenario where we are trying to communicate or get a message across to someone who is unresponsive or unwilling to listen. Talking to a brick wall implies the feeling of speaking into emptiness or encountering an unmovable barrier of silence. It emphasizes the difficulty of trying to make progress or achieve understanding in such a situation.

Another related idiom is "run into the ground." This phrase adds a different perspective to the concept of running into a brick wall. It suggests that we can go beyond encountering an obstacle to the point of wearing it down or depleting its resources. Run into the ground implies exerting so much effort or causing so much damage to something that it becomes ineffective or useless. It emphasizes the need for moderation and balance in our actions to avoid exhausting ourselves or the resources we rely on.

Lastly, the idiom "hit the bricks" is also related to the theme of encountering obstacles. It comes from the world of construction, where "bricks" signify building materials. Hit the bricks means to leave or go away, often in the context of being fired or dismissed from a job. In this context, it implies encountering a significant setback or failure that results in having to start over or look for new opportunities. It reflects the idea of leaving behind the familiar and embarking on a new path after facing a challenging situation.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom "run into a brick wall" can be used in a sentence:

  1. After hours of research, she felt like she was running into a brick wall trying to find a solution to the problem.
  2. The business development team realized they were running into a brick wall when they couldn't secure any new clients.
  3. Despite his efforts, the politician ran into a brick wall when trying to pass his proposed legislation.

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