phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at
Home button Home | Search the website Search | Phrase Dictionary | On your beam ends

The meaning and origin of the expression: On your beam ends

On your beam ends

Other phrases about:

What's the meaning of the phrase 'On your beam ends'?

Hard up; in a bad situation.

What's the origin of the phrase 'On your beam ends'?

The beams here are the horizontal transverse timbers of ships. This nautical phrase came about with the allusion to the danger of imminent capsize if the beam ends were touching the water. This dates back to the 18th century and is cited in a 1773 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine (why isn't there a magazine for gentlemen these days? They have them for ladz and ladetz):

"The gust laid her upon her beam-ends."

The figurative use came soon afterwards, in Captain Marryat's The King's Own, 1830:

"Our first-lieutenant was... on his beam-ends, with the rheumatiz."

See other Nautical Phrases.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Browse phrases beginning with:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ Full List