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[eyt-bawl] /ˈeɪtˌbɔl/
  1. a black ball bearing the number eight.
  2. a game in which one player or side must pocket all of either the solid-color balls or the striped ones before being permitted to attempt the pocketing of the eightball, which wins.
Slang. an inept person.
behind the eightball, Informal. in a difficult, disadvantageous, or uncomfortable situation:
He hasn't studied all term, and now he's behind the eightball.
1930-35, Americanism; eight + ball1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for eight ball

eight ball

noun (US & Canadian)
(in pool) the black ball, marked with the number eight
behind the eight ball, in a difficult situation; snookered
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for eight ball


  1. A black person (1919+)
  2. A chronically unfortunate and ineffective person; loser, sad sack (1940s+)
  3. square (1950s+ Jive talk)
Related Terms

behind the eight ball

[because the pool ball numbered eight is black and is unlucky if it blocks one's cue ball]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Encyclopedia Article for eight ball

popular American pocket-billiards game in which 15 balls numbered consecutively and a white cue ball are used. Those numbered 1-7 are solid colours; 9-15 are white with a single thick stripe in varying colours; and the eight ball is black. To begin, the balls are racked in a pyramid with the eight ball in the centre. One player or a side plays numbers 1-7, while the other plays 9-15; but choice of group is not made until a ball is legally pocketed. Once a side has pocketed all of its group, that side tries to pocket the eight ball and thus win the game. Should a player pocket the eight ball before all of his group is sunk, or misplay the eight ball (as by playing it into a pocket other than the pocket designated before the shot), that player loses.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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