Tying up loose ends is an idiomatic expression that simply means attending to a problem or to finish up unfinished business.
The expression is mostly used when someone is about to deal with the minor consequences of a previous action.
It is often used in professional and business environments, for example when a team plans to rectify minor details in their work.
We can sometimes encounter this expression used as a slang term, used primarily by underworld figures in movies.
In that case, tying up loose ends usually means that somebody is about to get killed.
It is believed that the expression comes from the times when sailing was the main way of traveling and transportation.
Sailors would tend to the ships’ sails constantly, by fastening the loose ends of the ropes.
Tying up loose ends was eventually taken over by everyday language and literature over the beginning of the 19th century, used as an idiom.
An 1849 English translation of Sophocles’ Antigone — translated by Paul Woodruff — contained the idiom in the following sentence: “This marriage will tie up loose ends by keeping two of the three surviving young royals in the ruling family.”
The idiom has been frequently used in dramas and other literature ever since.
However, in modern society, we can encounter the expression primarily in business environments and work-related issues.