1. Someone who is unable to perform normal functions because of a serious injury or because they are very sick.
2. A term used in boxing; it refers to a boxer who has been knocked out.
Example: Richard came down with the flu. He was really sick, so he had to stay in bed to rest. During the time that Richard was bedridden with this sickness, he could be described as being down and out.
The Origin Of ‘Down And Out’
The phrase ‘down and out’ is believed to come from boxing. Here’s why:
In boxing, two boxers who are ready to fight enter the ring. There are several timed rounds, and during each of them, the boxers fight one another, trying to punch their opponent in an attempt to knock them out. Fists are flying fast in the ring, and if a boxer gets hit hard enough on the head, he can lose his balance and be knocked down to the ground, or even knocked unconscious.
If the latter happens, the boxer can be described as being down and out, because he’s down on the floor, and he’s out (as in unconscious). So it looks like this phrase started as a boxing term, and then later went on to become an idiom.
This expression has been used in boxing since at least the late 19th century. For instance, it’s printed in The Referee newspaper from 1899:
“A short right arm swing on the neck administered by Rufe Turner sent ‘Cocker’ Tweedie, of Australia, down and out in the eigth round of what was to have been a twenty-round fight at the Avon Theatre, under the auspices of the Stockton Atheltic Association this evening.”
- My favorite doughnut shop in town closed, so now that they’re down and out, I’m gonna have to find new one.
- Tyler wants to go to work tomorrow, but because he broke his foot, he will be down and out for the next few months.
Note: Know Your Phrase has the meanings and origins of many expressions. However, when it comes to their origin, sometimes these are unknown; we don’t know where or how some of these expressions formed.
So in those cases, if there are any theories that talk about how it might have formed, then I will list those on the page. If not, well, generally every page contains an old quote of the expression being used in writing or in print. These can at least give you an idea on how old the saying or idiom is.