let someone down

Idioms & Phrases

let someone down

  1. Fail to support someone; also, disappoint someone. For example, I was counting on John to come, but he let me down, or The team didn't want to let down the coach. [Late 1400s] A British phrase with the same meaning is let the side down, alluding to some kind of competition (sports, politics) and dating from the mid-1900s. It is occasionally used in America.

  2. let someone down easy. Convey bad or disappointing news in a considerate way, so as to spare the person's self-respect. For example, The teacher knew that Paul would have to repeat the course and that there was no way to let him down easy. [Colloquial; mid-1700s] Also see let down.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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