Close, But No Cigar

The phrase close, but no cigar is traditionally uttered when someone falls just short of achieving a goal. The phrase comes to us from the early twentieth-century practice of giving out cigars as prizes for winning games of chance or skill at carnivals, fairs, and other attractions. As I am writing this, the earliest known use of the phrase is from 1929, although the phrase is almost certainly older, and antedatings may yet be found.

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