Is there a proverb for 破釜沉舟 in English? How do you describe it using two words?


破釜沉舟 describe an action of "destroy one's own mean to retreat/escape" ; the underline reasons are 1. "to show determination" 2. "force oneself to continue"

You can consider

  1. burn one's bridges/boats

  2. hell-bent

  3. crossing the Rubicon

The action of "burn one's bridges/boats" match 破釜沉舟 almost word for word, but its main usage is to describe "doing something that can't be easily undone in the future; destroy relationships or chance of reconciliation with others." the underline reason is not relevant. This phrase might describe an action similar to 破釜沉舟; Both actions cut off one's retreat route, but the reason behind "burn one's bridges/boats" doesn't include "to show determination"

Another English expression "hell-bent" describes the first underline reason "to show determination" much better


stubbornly and often recklessly determined or intent

"crossing the Rubicon" implies "to past the point of no return" although the action doesn't match 破釜沉舟 well like "burn one's bridges/boats" but it implies the underline reasons "to show determination" and "force oneself to continue" better

My conclusion is:

"burn one's bridges/boats matches 破釜沉舟 in literal meaning

"crossing the Rubicon" matches 破釜沉舟 in its figurative meanings

How to say 破釜沉舟 in English?

我們要破釜沉舟 = we must cross the Rubicon

我們要有破釜沉舟的決心 = We must have the determination of crossing the Rubicon


Crossing the Rubicon:

Julius Caesar's crossing the Rubicon river was an event in 49 BC that precipitated the Roman Civil War, which ultimately led to Caesar becoming dictator for life and the rise of the imperial era of Rome. Caesar had been appointed to a governorship over a region that ranged from southern Gaul to Illyricum (but not Italy). As his term of governorship ended, the Roman Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome. He was explicitly ordered not to bring his army across the Rubicon river, which was at that time a northern boundary of Italy. In January of 49 BC, Caesar brought the 13th legion across the river, which the Roman government considered insurrection, treason, and a declaration of war on the Roman Senate. According to some authors, he is said to have uttered the phrase "alea iacta est"—the die is cast—as his army marched through the shallow river.

Today, the phrase "crossing the Rubicon" is an idiom that means to pass a point of no return.


  • Alea iacta est
    • The die is cast
  • Point of no return
  • Burn one's bridges/boats
  • Fait accompli
  • Line in the sand

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