Contact Us
Make My Homepage

Where Did the Phrase ‘Got You Over a Barrel’ Come From?

Valerie Everett, Flickr

If someone has you ‘over a barrel,’ it’s never a good sign. This phrase means you’re in an extremely vulnerable position, and another human being (most likely not a friend) is taking advantage of that vulnerability.

Imagine, for example, you ‘borrowed’ some money from the petty cash account at work and ‘accidentally’ forgot to pay it back. Could happen to anyone, right? But then one of your colleagues finds out and threatens to tell the boss, unless you type up his or her reports for the next six months.

In other words, when you’re over a barrel, you’re a prime target for blackmail.

There are two possible explanations about the origins of this phrase. The first comes from the penitentiary system, where misbehaving prisoners were, back in the day, routinely fastened to barrels and flogged.

The second explanation stems from the practice of tossing a person who has almost drowned over a barrel to help clear water from the lungs. Regardless of the barrel in question, you undoubtedly wouldn’t want to linger in either position for any extended period of time.

If, during the course of your life, you find that others are often putting you over a barrel, you might want to rethink how you conduct your affairs, and please, stop associating with the criminally minded.

[Word Origins]

Recommended For You

Best of the Web

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to using your original account information.

*Please note that your prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for KEAN A-List quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!

Sign up to have exclusive KEAN A-List contests, events, coupons, presales, and much more delivered to you for FREE.