Down And Out

Meaning:

1. Someone who is unable to perform normal functions because of a serious injury or because they are very sick.

Example: Richard came down with the flu. He was really sick, so he stayed in bed all day to rest. While Richard was bedridden with this sickness, he might be described as being down and out.

2. A term used in boxing; it refers to a boxer who has been knocked out.

Synonyms / Similar Phrases:

1. Down for the count
2. Out cold
3. Out of business
4. Out of commission


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.”

Example Sentences

  • My favorite donut shop in town closed down; with them being down and out, I’ll have to find a new place to get my donuts.
  • Tyler broke his foot while biking, so he will be down and out for the next couple months.

Similar Idioms:

  • He was so exhausted from our trip that the moment he laid down in bed, he was out cold within minutes.

Tip: Know Your Phrase has the meanings and origins of many expressions. Browse through our list of phrases by using the menu at the top.


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