in the hole

Idioms & Phrases

in the hole

  1. In debt; in trouble, especially financial trouble. For example, Joan is too extravagant; she's always in the hole, or Buying all these Christmas presents will put us in the hole for the next few months. [Colloquial; early 1800s] Also see in a bind.

  2. In trouble in a competitive sport. For example, At three balls and no strikes, the pitcher's in the hole, or The batter's got two strikes on him; he's in the hole. [Slang; late 1800s]

  3. In a card game, scoring lower than zero. For example, Only one hand's been dealt and I'm already three points in the hole. This expression alludes to the practice of circling a minus score in the old game of euchre. The antonym for all three usages is out of the hole, as in It took careful financial management to get Kevin out of the hole, or An experienced pitcher often can manage to get out of the hole. Also see ace in the hole.

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