up a tree

Idioms & Phrases

up a tree

In a difficult situation, as in They found the drugs in his suitcase, so he was up a tree. This expression alludes to an animal, such as a raccoon or squirrel, that climbs a tree for refuge from attackers, which then surround the tree so it cannot come down. [Colloquial; early 1800s]

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