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[sheet] /ʃit/
  1. a rope or chain for extending the clews of a square sail along a yard.
  2. a rope for trimming a fore-and-aft sail.
  3. a rope or chain for extending the lee clew of a course.
verb (used with object)
Nautical. to trim, extend, or secure by means of a sheet or sheets.
three sheets in / to the wind, Slang. intoxicated.
1300-50; Middle English shete, shortening of Old English scēatlīne, equivalent to scēat(a) lower corner of a sail (see sheet1) + līne line1, rope; cognate with Low German schote Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for three sheets wind


a large rectangular piece of cotton, linen, etc, generally one of a pair used as inner bedclothes
  1. a thin piece of a substance such as paper, glass, or metal, usually rectangular in form
  2. (as modifier) sheet iron
a broad continuous surface; expanse or stretch a sheet of rain
a newspaper, esp a tabloid
a piece of printed paper to be folded into a section for a book
a page of stamps, usually of one denomination and already perforated
any thin tabular mass of rock covering a large area
(transitive) to provide with, cover, or wrap in a sheet
(intransitive) (of rain, snow, etc) to fall heavily
Word Origin
Old English sciete; related to sceat corner, lap, Old Norse skaut, Old High German scōz lap


(nautical) a line or rope for controlling the position of a sail relative to the wind
Word Origin
Old English scēata corner of a sail; related to Middle Low German schōte rope attached to a sail; see sheet1
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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Word Origin and History for three sheets wind
O.E. sciete (W.Saxon), scete (Mercian) "cloth, covering," from P.Gmc. *skautijon, from base *skauta- "project" (cf. O.N. skaut "corner of cloth," Goth. skauts "seam, hem of a garment;" Du. schoot Ger. Schoß "bosom, lap"), from PIE base *skeud- "to shoot, chase, throw" (see shoot). Sense of "piece of paper" first recorded 1510; that of "any broad, flat surface" (of metal, open water, etc.) is from 1592. Of falling rain from 1697. Meaning "a newspaper" is first recorded 1749. Sheet lightning is attested from 1794; sheet music is from 1857. Between the sheets "in bed" (usually with sexual overtones) is attested from 1599; to be white as a sheet is from 1751.
"rope that controls a sail," O.E. sceatline "sheet-line," from sceata "lower part of sail," originally "piece of cloth," from same root as sheet (1) (q.v.). The sense transferred to the rope by 1294. This is probably the notion in phrase three sheets to the wind "drunk and disorganized," first recorded 1821, an image of a sloop-rigged sailboat whose three sheets have slipped through the blocks are lost to the wind, thus out of control.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for three sheets wind


  1. A newspaper: Both morning sheets have written it up (1749+)
  2. rap sheet: He's a con man with a sheet as long as your arm (Police)
Related Terms

dope sheet, poop sheet, rap sheet, scratch sheet, swindle sheet, three sheets to the wind

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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Idioms and Phrases with three sheets wind
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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