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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

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idiomatic phrase

: 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

Examples of take-no-prisoners in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Not as entertaining nor as exciting as a take-no-prisoners offensive assault but sometimes necessary to win the game. Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2023 Trending So no, Nyad isn’t exactly slathering, pandering, take-no-prisoners Oscar bait. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 2 Nov. 2023 Flannery’s infirmity, unconventional looks and take-no-prisoners nonconformity find expression in these women’s daughters. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Sep. 2023 Shakti’s exhilarating, take-no-prisoners approach to music has never wavered since the band’s inception 50 years ago, regardless of who is in the lineup. George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Aug. 2023 Pleasantly chewy, the crullers made lovely sponges for the take-no-prisoners black pepper sauce, the taste equivalent of a bugle blast. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, 18 July 2023 Hidden Hand applies the same take-no-prisoners approach as Hamilton’s 2018 book, Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia. Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs, 10 Dec. 2020 Nationally, the governor made a name for himself as an unabashed Republican critic of Trump, often harping on the latter's take-no-prisoners political style. Ryan King, Washington Examiner, 26 Apr. 2023 Country powerhouse Chapel Hart, featuring sisters Danica and Devynn Hart, and first cousin Trea Swindle, just released an upbeat, take-no-prisoners tune from their upcoming album Glory Days. Terri Robertson, Country Living, 7 Apr. 2023
Idiomatic phrase
John’s synagogue of Satan came to stand for all the Arians and other heretics who disagreed with Athanasius, and John’s take-no-prisoners tone was congenial to a bishop who intended to take no prisoners. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 The Bengals’ defense is beaten up and the Bills’ offense will take no prisoners. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 16 Jan. 2023 Al-Anon members take no prisoners. Annie Lane, oregonlive, 10 Jan. 2023 In other words, entrepreneurs are aggressive, outgoing risk-takers who take no prisoners. Caroline Castrillon, Forbes, 2 Jan. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'take-no-prisoners.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1968, in the meaning defined above

Idiomatic Phrase

1915, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near take-no-prisoners

take no prisoners


take note

Cite this Entry

“Take-no-prisoners.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/take-no-prisoners. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: having a fierce, relentless, or merciless character
take-no-prisoners politics
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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