My way or the highway

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My way or the highway is a predominantly American idiom that dates back to the 1970s.[1] It suggests an ultimatum like "take it or leave it", which indicates that the listener(s) (who are typically not in a position to challenge the options, e.g. employees or those lacking money) must totally accept the speaker's decision or suffer negative consequences such as being fired, asked to leave, or receive nothing. The idiom literally tells the listener that if they don't wish to follow the speaker's demands they will have to leave, specifically, go take the highway out of town, otherwise, if they choose to stay, they will be required to follow the speaker's demands. The idiom may sometimes be seen with other pronouns, for example, her way or the highway.


One of former Hull hospitals boss Phil Morley's senior directors was reported as saying "it's Phil's way or the high way".[2]

As San Francisco Chief of Police, Anthony Ribera was known for his hair-trigger temper and aggressive "my way or the highway" approach which was detested in the Department.[3]

Lawrence Biondi was a controversial figure over the span of his presidency at St. Louis University. When asked about his approach to leadership for accomplishing his bold vision, Biondi said he is a "my-way-or-the-highway kind of guy."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google ngrams
  2. ^ Coggan A (11 Feb 2015) Hull Daily Mail A 40-year NHS career in tatters: Pauline Lewin, the Hull hospital executive at centre of Phil Morley bullying claims
  3. ^ "Time for chief to bail out?". SFGate. 15 January 1995. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Biondi: 25 Years – Architect of change, bulldog for progress - St. Louis Business Journal". 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2013-05-05.