Definition of take-no-prisoners

 (Entry 1 of 2)

chiefly US
: having a fierce, relentless, or aggressive character a take-no-prisoners attitude … McGraw is actually famous for his blunt, take-no-prisoners style of therapy.— Marc Peyser … the kind of scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners writing style she had become notorious for.— Kirsten Fleming He is one of a kind—a maverick with a take-no-prisoners approach to the wine business.Wine Spectator The long-distance marketers are now digging in for a take-no-prisoners strategy to keep a tight grip on their $70 billion industry …— Kate Fitzgerald

take no prisoners

idiomatic phrase

Definition of take no prisoners (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be aggressively harsh, tough, or relentless (as in pursuing a goal, exploiting an advantage, or expressing criticism) a politician who takes no prisoners His record as a tough, capable administrator somehow manages to satisfy both Pentagon hard-liners and State Department moderates. "He takes no prisoners," says a U.S. official …— Daniel Eisenberg That show featured Barbara Frum, who was simply one of the most important, most fearless TV journalists this country has ever seen. … She took no prisoners in those interviews.— John Cairns Like their private sector counterparts, … [they] have been known to take no prisoners when competing for contracts.— Willie Schatz Mr. Smith takes no prisoners as he lambastes a policy he believes was misguided and mistaken from the beginning.— Walter Russell Mead

First Known Use of take-no-prisoners


1968, in the meaning defined above

Idiomatic phrase

1915, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for take-no-prisoners

Time Traveler

The first known use of take-no-prisoners was in 1915

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Take-no-prisoners.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/take-no-prisoners. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of take-no-prisoners

US, informal : very tough and aggressive

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