back to the wall

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back to the wall

Also, back against the wall. In a hard-pressed situation; also, without any way of escape. For example, In the closing few minutes, our team had its back to the wall but continued to fight gallantly , or The bank has him with his back to the wall; he'll have to pay up now. This term was used originally for a military force that is making a last stand. [First half of 1500s]
See also: back, wall
References in classic literature ?
When I sat at work I half-faced a deep, upholstered chair which stood at the end of my table, its high back against the wall.
They had set me with my back against the wall, and I stood there, looking Silver in the face, pluckily enough, I hope, to all outward appearance, but with black despair in my heart.
And then something gave, there was a momentary feeling of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and I stood with my back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown foe.
So Trent, with his back against the wall and not a friend to help him, faced for twenty-four hours the most powerful bull syndicate which had ever been formed against a single Company.
Mirabel shrank back against the wall behind him, trembling in every limb.
Katharine Hilbery came in rather late, and took up a position on the floor, with her back against the wall.
He did not even look round him; and in the room, leaning with his back against the wall, he allowed himself to be carried away by the terrible supposition that he was already dead, as he closed his eyes, in order to avoid looking upon something even worse still.
He flung it back against the wall angrily -- what did he mean by leaving it there?
She was cracking walnuts and picking them out of the shells, throwing out a remark occasionally to a rough man in a rabbit-skin cap, with straps under the knees of his corduroy trousers, who stood puffing a black clay pipe with his back against the wall.
There was a desk pushed back against the wall, which the irregular ceiling eloped down to meet behind it, and at my left was a window, which gave a good light on the writing-leaf of my desk.
A cry followed; he reeled, staggered, clutched at the table and held on, staring with injected eyes, gasping with open mouth; and as I looked there came, I thought, a change--he seemed to swell-- his face became suddenly black and the features seemed to melt and alter--and the next moment, I had sprung to my feet and leaped back against the wall, my arms raised to shield me from that prodigy, my mind submerged in terror.
The tall, fair-haired General Buxhowden stood, leaning his back against the wall, his eyes fixed on a burning candle, and seemed not to listen or even to wish to be thought to listen.
They ran around a bend to see what was the matter and found a man sitting on the floor of the passage and leaning his back against the wall.
With his back against the wall, Rocke displayed more courage.
With his back against the wall for support, so weak the reaction left him, Bradley stood watching the creature upon the floor.