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Someone who spends the greater part of their time in bars or other drinking establishments. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. You get to know the people in these places when you're a barfly like me.

bar off

1. To barricade, erect a barrier around, or deny access to something. Remember to bar off the front and back doors when you leave the building at night. The school threatened to bar off internet access for students who use it to look at unrelated or inappropriate material.
2. In agriculture, to plow a furrow on either side of a row of plants so that their roots sit atop a high, narrow bed of soil. Make sure you bar off those rows of new seedlings first thing this morning.
See also: bar, off

bar sinister

1. obsolete In heraldry, a mark that runs from the left shoulder of the bearer down to the right, often used to denote a noble who is of illegitimate birth. "Sinister" comes from a Latin word meaning "on the left. The young duke, born out of wedlock to the king, wore a bar sinister upon his shield.
2. By extension, the status, stigma, or implication of illegitimate birth. The boy grew up in comfort, but his other brothers never let him forget his bar sinister.
See also: bar

bar star

Someone who has or seeks a popular reputation by frequenting bars or night clubs. Primarily heard in US, South Africa. Though he does not have a vibrant social life during the week, during the weekend he is something of a bar star.
See also: bar, star

bar up

To barricade, fit, or fortify with metal bars. Crime has gotten so bad in this area that we've had to bar up our windows. They finally barred up that old abandoned building last weekend.
See also: bar, up

call to the bar

1. noun Admission as a lawyer (American English), or specifically as a barrister or solicitor (British English). Ms. Fields earned her call to the bar only last year but has already represented many high-profile clients in court.
2. verb To receive admission as a lawyer (American English) or as a barrister or solicitor (British English). I studied law in Dublin, but I was called to the bar in London and have my practice set up there now.
See also: bar, call

not know (someone) from a bar of soap

To be completely unaware of or know nothing about someone; to have never met the person indicated. My girlfriend got really excited when a movie star apparently walked past us, but I wouldn't know him from a bar of soap. Someone I wouldn't know from a bar of soap just contacted me online, claiming to be a distant relative.
See also: bar, know, not, of, soap

lower the bar

To lower the standards of quality that are expected of or required for something. Soaring rents have really lowered the bar for where people are willing to live these days. During the economic boom, regulators lowered the bar for investment bankers' accountability.
See also: bar, lower

raise the bar

To raise the standards of quality that are expected of or required for something. Since higher education became available to a greater number of people, businesses have increasingly been raising the bar for entry-level employees.
See also: bar, raise

prop up the bar

To spend a large amount of time drinking at a pub or pubs in general. Primarily heard in UK. My father spent most of my childhood propping up the bar, so forgive me if I am not overly enthusiastic about social drinking. John's down at the local, propping up the bar with his mates from work.
See also: bar, prop, up

be put behind bars

To be arrested and held in prison; to be serving time in prison. I hear Mike's uncle has been put behind bars again. I wonder what he did this time! Sir, I'm afraid your son has been put behind bars on a charge of drunk driving.
See also: bar, behind, put

put (someone) behind bars

To arrest someone and hold him or her in prison; to sentence someone to serve time in prison. I heard that they put Mike's uncle behind bars for robbing a liquor store! The cops put our son behind bars on a charge of drunk driving, so we have to go down to the station to bail him out.
See also: bar, behind, put

set a high/low bar

To establish an expected, required, or desired (but ultimately constrictive) standard of quality. A: "At this point, I'm willing to go out with just about any guy, so long as he isn't living in his parents' basement." B: "Don't you think you're setting a bit of a low bar? While you shouldn't take just any job you can get after college, be sure not to set too high a bar for an entry level job, or you may have trouble landing one at all.
See also: bar, high, low, set

set the bar (high/low)

To establish an expected, required, or desired standard of quality. (Often said of a standard that is constrictive in being either too low or too high). A: "At this point, I'm willing to go out with just about any guy, so long as he isn't living in his parents' basement." B: "Don't you think you're setting the bar a little low? While you shouldn't take just any job you can get after college, be sure not to set the bar too high for an entry level job, or you may have trouble landing one at all. I hear that the new restaurant around the corner really sets the bar for exquisite seafood.
See also: bar, set

belly up to the bar

To walk up to something (not necessarily an actual bar). Come on, just belly up to the bar! Push through that crowd in the lobby so we can get to the check-in desk today!
See also: bar, belly, up

bar none

with no exceptions. (Follows an assertion.) This is the best of all, bar none.
See also: bar, none

bar someone from some place

to prevent someone from entering some place. Please don't bar me from the movie theater. I will be quiet from now on. They were barred from the concert for smoking.
See also: bar, place

*behind bars

in jail. (*Typically: be ~; put someone ~.) Very soon, you will be behind bars for your crimes. Max should be behind bars soon for his conviction on burglary charges.
See also: bar, behind

Katie bar the door

Prepare immediately for an advancing threat. Katie bar the door, the grandchildren are here and they all look hungry.
See also: bar, door, Katie

raise the bar

Fig. to make a task a little more difficult. (As with raising the bar in high jumping or pole vaulting.) Just as I was getting accustomed to my job, the manager raised the bar and I had to perform even better.
See also: bar, raise

bar none

without omitting anyone or anything Terrell is the best player in the division, bar none.
Usage notes: used when comparing someone or something to all others of the same type
See also: bar, none

behind bars

in prison It's impossible to imagine what it would be like to spend your whole life behind bars.
Etymology: based on the literal bars used to build a prison
See also: bar, behind

behind bars

in prison He spent ten years behind bars after being convicted for armed robbery.
See also: bar, behind

It's all over bar the shouting.

  (British & Australian)
something that you say when the result of an event or situation is certain The Italian team played superbly, and by half-time it was all over bar the shouting (= it was certain they would win).
See a shouting match
See also: all, bar, shout

all over but the shouting

The outcome is a certainty, as in When Jim hit the ball over the fence, it was all over but the shouting. The term's first use in print, in 1842, was by Welsh sportswriter Charles James Apperley, but some authorities believe it originated even earlier in the United States for a close political race. Today it is applied to any contest. A common British version is all over bar the shouting.
See also: all, but, shout

bar none

Also, barring none. Without exception, as in This is the best book I've read all year, bar none. [Mid-1800s]
See also: bar, none

behind bars

In prison, as in All murderers should be put behind bars for life. The bars here refer to the iron rods used to confine prisoners. [c. 1900]
See also: bar, behind


1. n. a person who frequents bars. Who will trust the word of an old barfly like Willy?
2. n. a drunkard. Some barfly staggered out of the tavern straight into the side of a car.

behind bars

mod. in jail; in prison. You belong behind bars, you creep!
See also: bar, behind

behind bars

In prison.
See also: bar, behind

bar sinister

A coat of arms ornamentation that is supposedly a sign of illegitimacy. The phrase, which has appeared in the works of novelists Laurence Sterne and Sir Walter Scott, implies a “bar” that prevents the person from a legitimate claim or inheritance, while “sinister” (the heraldic term for a coat of arms' left side) sounds menacing. Although the idea of a bar sinister on an illegitimate person's shield entered popular speech more than two centuries ago, that's not heraldically correct. A patterned border around a shield was the British heraldry way of indicating bastardy, and if you want to be even more technical, a thin diagonal line that does not touch the edges of the shield is a “baton,” not a “bar.” However, people rarely check with the College of Arms before using words and phrases.
See also: bar

Katie, bar the door!

"Watch out—there's trouble coming!” King James I, who was set upon in 1437 by unhappy Scots, took refuge in a room whose door had no bar lock. One Catherine Douglas tried to keep the door closed with her arm, but the mob broke through and murdered the king. That the king might have shouted, “Catherine, bar the door,” is not too very different from the once-popular phrase. That the expression was brought to America by Anglo-Scottish settlers is equally likely, and for genera- tions rural folk would acknowledge a difficult situation with a shake of the head and “Katy, bar the door.”
See also: bar
References in classic literature ?
By this time the irritated feelings of Natty had found vent: and he rested on the bar for a moment, in a musing posture, when he lifted his face, with his silent laugh, and, pointing to where the wood- chopper stood, he said:
He turned from the bar and saw the woman by the stove and the eager look of welcome she extended him.
They swaggered unsteadily but belligerently toward the bar and looked at Pete with bleared and blinking eyes.
Johnny Heinhold leaned across the bar and whispered in my ear s "He's got it in for you.
The ass not rarely has very distinct transverse bars on its legs, like those on the legs of a zebra: it has been asserted that these are plainest in the foal, and from inquiries which I have made, I believe this to be true.
Of five coves, three, or all which had been sounded, were observed to have a bar quite across their mouths and deeper water within, so that the bay tended to be an expansion of water within the land not only horizontally but vertically, and to form a basin or independent pond, the direction of the two capes showing the course of the bar.
Mrs Varden returned from the contemplation of these wonders to the bar again, with a head quite dizzy and bewildered.
Mr Merdle again expressed himself as wholly devoted to that object of his constant consideration, and Bar took his persuasive eye- glass up the grand staircase.
The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the human breast.
This was comfortable, but this was not all; for a smartly-dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle, was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels, together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and delicious array.
Equally in his stopping at the bars and attending to anxious whisperers - always singly - Wemmick with his post-office in an immovable state, looked at them while in conference, as if he were taking particular notice of the advance they had made, since last observed, towards coming out in full blow at their trial.
You see, I'm small enough to get through the bars of that window; and I was afraid they would put me in a cage instead.
I beg your pardon, madame, could you tell me where to find a gate or door, made of bars, iron bars, opening into the Rue Scribe.
For four days he had struggled, yelled, and wrenched at the heavy iron bars of his prison without ceasing, and had nearly slain a Lascar incautious enough to come within reach of the great hairy paw.
Quickly I mounted it, only to find that it connected at the top with the lower of a series of horizontal wooden bars that spanned the now narrow and shaft-like interior of the tree's stem.