behind the eight ball

Idioms & Phrases

behind the eight ball

In trouble or an awkward position, out of luck, as in His check bounced, leaving Jim behind the eight ball with his landlord. The term comes from pocket billiards or pool, where in certain games if the number eight ball is between the "cue ball" and "object ball" the player cannot make a straight shot. [Colloquial; c. 1920]

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