When you’re about to go to an important meeting or take part in a big sporting event, somebody might give you the advice of “give no quarter”. At first, this will strike some as making so sense and not having much meaning. But today, we’ll be taking a look at what it means, where it comes from, and where you might hear it in a modern context.
What does “no quarter” mean?
To “give no quarter” means to show no mercy. When you “give no quarter”, you are being ruthless, getting what you want at any cost.
Initially, it arose from battle situations, but today, you’ll be more likely to hear it in the boardroom or boxing ring than on a battlefield.
A “quarter” was used to refer to a room- in this case, a prison cell.
What “no quarter” meant originally
Many years ago, some armies would choose to “give no quarter” to their enemies. This meant that even if the other side surrendered, they wouldn’t be put into prison. They would be executed.
There could be a variety of reasons for one side “giving no quarter” to the other. Perhaps they didn’t want to provide food and shelter for those who were trying to kill them. Or maybe they just hated their enemy so much that they didn’t want them to have anything other than death.
When you were told to “give no quarter”, that meant that even when they threw up the white flag, you’d have to put them to death.
When you might give “no quarter” today
Today, it has taken on a slightly less literal meaning. However, the underlying emphasis on a lack of mercy is still in the phrase today.
In a business meeting, you might have to negotiate a deal. The aim is for you to get the best deal possible and for the other guy to be left with as little as possible.
When you “give no quarter” in this context, you’re making sure that somebody else loses. Even if they offer you something amazing, you need them to go down.
Another time you might hear “give no quarter” would be in sports, particularly fighting sports such as boxing.
When you “give no quarter” during a boxing match, you will keep on fighting and keep on hitting the other guy. If he gets tired and starts to show signs of weakness, that is not a sign for you to slow down to let him get his energy back up.
Your opponent being out of breath is a sign that you need to clobber him and knock him out!
Examples of “no quarter” in sentences
“We’ve made mutual promise to give no quarter -almost sworn it.”
“It is against the usage of modern war to resolve, in hatred and revenge, to give no quarter.
“All of the country vowed to give no quarter to either the captain or the seamen, but to hang them all up at the yardarm”.
“Will give no quarter to religion and its professors, “Character and purpose of the Holy Scriptures”.
“On the following day he was still issuing orders to give no quarter and was angry with officers who had different ideas of proper conduct.”
“No quarter I ‘ll give, no quarter I ‘ll take, There is no one man living, one glass is too late; For we are sworn brothers, and it is my design, I’ m bound for the Indies, the gold shall be mine”.
“God says, — Give no quarter to Infidels, but cut their throats”.
“I give no quarter; 72 I’d rather grapple with Old Nick than with a lawyer; but, if you’ll begin the attack, if I don’t soon make you strike, say I’m no seaman? “
“they hoisted the Red Flag when they intended to give no quarter”.
Why “give no quarter” is bad advice
Not only is giving “no quarter” very immoral in battle, but it’s also not a particularly good war tactic. If people know that they’ll be killed on the spot if they surrender, they will be far less likely to throw down their weapons.
Instead, they’ll put more resources into better weapons and a better strategy and leave you with a much lower chance of winning.
Also, if somebody surrenders, they are no longer a threat to you, and they can be put in prison and made to face justice. If you deny them the right to a fair trial, doesn’t that automatically make you the bad guy?
Give no quarter. Take no quarter
Sometimes when people were told to “give no quarter” they would also be told to “take no quarter”. This phrase sounds super cool and inspiring, but it’s actually rather gruesome when you think about it.
If you were told to “take no quarter”, this meant that you were being told to allow yourself to be killed before you surrendered. Back then, you were expected to fight for your king and country, and protecting the kingdom was seen as more important than your own life.
Usage of “no quarter”
The first recorded usage of the phrase “give no quarter” was in 1541. However, in 1559, it had become a popular war tactic amongst some of the most vicious armies on the planet.
In the mid to late 1700s, it saw a resurgence in popularity. But in 1907, thanks to the Hague Convention, giving “no quarter” to your enemies once they had surrendered became outlawed in all nations that signed up to it.
Unfortunately, even today, some groups are so evil they would still rather kill their enemies than give them a fair trial and put them in a cell.
To “give no quarter” means to show no mercy. Even if your enemy surrenders, you need to finish them! Originally, this was used in battle. But today, the battlefield doesn’t involve swords and guns, but business deals and boxing gloves.
Next time you’re reading a war story and hear someone say “give no quarter”, chances are the character who said that is one of the bad guys.
Hopefully, now, you have a better idea of what it means to be given “no quarter”. You can apply it to the situations in your life when a surrender will not be good enough.